The U.S. Supreme Court let President Donald Trump’s administration keep using a tough test to screen out green card applicants who might become dependent on government benefits, refusing to halt the policy because of the Covid-19 outbreak.
With no published dissents, the justices rejected a request from a New York-led group of state and local governments that said emergency Supreme Court intervention was needed to ensure immigrants weren’t deterred from using publicly funded health-care programs and other benefits. The court also rejected a similar motion filed by Cook County, Illinois.
The court left open the possibility that a request could be filed with a federal district court.
The justices earlier this year let the new test take effect, issuing a pair of 5-4 orders that blocked lower court rulings. The second of those orders prompted Trump to lash out at dissenting Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who had criticized the court majority as being too quick to grant administration requests.
The new rule changed what critics say was a longstanding understanding of the federal bar on permanent residency for “public charges.” The Trump rule expanded the definition of public charge and gave officials broad power to determine that someone is at risk of falling into that category.
Under the new rule, immigrants are considered public charges if they are deemed likely to receive public benefits, including the Medicaid health-care program for the poor, for more than 12 months over a 36-month period.
Trump this week said his administration will suspend the issuing of green cards for 60 days in a step he said will preserve jobs for Americans who are out of work.
The New York-led group argued that the rule makes it less likely that immigrants will get tested for Covid-19 because they will be deterred from using Medicaid and other health-care benefits. The group includes Connecticut, Vermont and New York City.
“The rule makes it more likely that immigrants will suffer serious illness if infected and spread the virus inadvertently to others — risks that are heightened because immigrants make up a large proportion of the essential workers who continue to interact with the public,” the group argued.
The Trump administration told the high court that publicly funded services for coronavirus prevention and treatment don’t count in the public-charge analysis. The administration said the states were asking the court to “second-guess the executive’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The case is Department of Homeland Security v. New York, 19A785.
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