The Supreme Court issued an order Monday allowing the Trump administration to begin enforcing new limits on immigrants who are considered likely to become overly dependent on government benefit programs.
The court voted 5-4. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan said they would have left a lower court ruling in place that blocked enforcement while a legal challenge works its way through the courts.
The Department of Homeland Security announced in August that it would expand the definition of “public charge,” to be applied to people whose immigration to the United States could be denied because of a concern that they would primarily depend on the government for their income.
In the past, that was largely based on an assessment that an immigrant would be dependent upon cash benefits. But the Trump administration proposed to broaden the definition to include noncash benefits, such as Medicaid, supplemental nutrition and federal housing assistance.
Anyone who would be likely to require that broader range of help for more than 12 months in any three-year period would be swept into the expanded definition.
But in response to a lawsuit filed by New York, Connecticut, Vermont, New York City and immigrant aid groups, a federal judge in New York imposed a nationwide injunction, blocking the government from enforcing the broader rule. Congress never meant to consider the kind of time limit the government proposed, the judge said, and the test has always been whether an immigrant would become primarily dependent on cash benefits.
The government has long had authority to block immigrants who were likely to become public charges, but the term has never been formally defined. The DHS proposed to fill that void, adding noncash benefits and such factors as age, financial resources, employment history, education and health.