SCOTUS Throws Out Case Over Signature Trump Immigration Policy


This week, the U.S. Supreme Court set aside a court challenge involving a Trump era immigration rule that counted eligibility for government assistance programs against prospective green card recipients, although native-born American citizens are, of course, free to use these programs, when eligible, without exactly threatening their citizenship.

On Tuesday, Acting Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar notified the court that the federal government and its challengers “agreed that the challenge should be dismissed,” as CNN summarizes, and the court followed suit. With President Joe Biden in charge, the federal government’s stance in support of the controversial Trump era rule has, of course, changed.

The United States already had a rule similar to the Trump era provision before the former president’s administration, but Trump’s team expanded it. Foundationally, the rule restricts legal status from immigrants who could become a “public charge,” meaning that they would receive significant levels of their support from the government. Trump’s team expanded the range of government assistance programs that could count against prospective green card recipients in these calculations. Under Trump, usage of or eligibility for Medicaid, food stamps, and housing assistance could count against immigrants.

Susan Welber, who works at The Legal Aid Society and whose organization challenged the Trump era public charge rule in court, said that the provision will “now be blocked while the Biden administration continues its review process and decides what the new will be.” President Biden already ordered a federal review of the Trump era rule, and according to Biden’s order, this review is supposed to include recommendations “to clearly communicate current public charge policies and proposed changes, if any, to reduce fear and confusion among impacted communities.” With potential usage of potentially lifesaving assistance possibly negatively impacting immigrants, affected individuals could be more likely to leave themselves in precarious circumstances.

As The Legal Aid Society put it:

‘[The] Trump rule erected an invisible wall in the form of a wealth test that discriminated against people on the basis of race as a condition for regularizing their immigration status. And because of the public charge rule, immigrant families have been living in fear of using essential benefits like healthcare, despite serving as frontline workers who have been among those hardest hit by COVID-19.’

As CNN similarly summarizes, “immigrant families [have] avoided public benefit programs, like Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, in fear of risking future green card status, according to recently-released research from the Urban Institute.”

Besides the Biden administration’s abandonment of the Trump era public charge rule, they’ve also worked to roll back other legacies of the Trump era approach to immigration. The Biden administration has, for instance, moved to end the so-called Remain in Mexico program, which forced asylum seekers to wait in potentially precarious conditions in Mexico while their claims were processed in the United States. Biden also ended federal financial support for wall construction at the southern border. Even Republicans in Congress opposed the Trump administration’s usurpation of federal funds for that border barrier effort.