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Trump admin begins blocking green cards for immigrants on welfare after Supreme Court decision

The Supreme Court of the United States in Washington, D.C., on September 25, 2018.(Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)
February 24, 2020

The U.S. Supreme Court handed President Donald Trump a victory on Friday after deciding his administration may proceed with plans to implement its “public charge” rule, which bars legal immigration to applicants drawing public benefits.

The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the Trump administration can implement the “public charge” rule nationwide except for Illinois while the courts continue to consider the new rule, CNN reported. The rule took effect on Monday.

The decision follows a prior court’s 5-4 ruling in favor of the immigration rule.

“This final rule will protect hard working American taxpayers, safeguard welfare programs for truly needy Americans, reduce the Federal deficit, and re-establish the fundamental legal principle that newcomers to our society should be financially self-reliant and not dependent on the largesse of United States taxpayers,” the Trump White House said in a Saturday statement following the ruling.

The rule would establish a standard for caseworkers considering immigrants applying for lawful permanent status under a green card. Current federal law already requires green card applicants to affirm their ability to be self-sufficient and avoid becoming a “public charge,” but the new rule would expand that policy to specifically list reliance on public programs, such as food stamps, Medicaid and Housing Vouchers, as disqualifying.

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“We want to see people coming to this country who are self-sufficient,” then-acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Ken Cuccinelli, said when the Trump administration unveiled the policy in August. “That’s a core principle of the American Dream. It’s deeply embedded in our history, and particularly our history related to legal immigration.”

The U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco argued in August that “the availability of public benefits should not be an incentive for immigration to the United States.”

At least nine European countries currently impose  – including the U.K., Austria and Germany – base citizenship, at least in part on an applicant’s proof of economic self-sufficiency.

The Trump administration originally planned to roll out the policy in October, but the policy was instead delayed by legal challenges. Opponents of the policy said the public charge rule would penalize low-income immigrants who rely on temporary assistance when entering the country.

The latest Supreme Court decision allows the “public charge” rule to proceed while challenges to the rule continue through the court system. The rule went into effect on Monday, CBS News reported.

The Trump administration, which has been critical of existing immigration issues in the U.S., has won other immigration policy rulings in recent months, including a recent ruling in favor of plans to reallocate Pentagon spending to wall construction along the U.S.-Mexico border.