Supreme Court Allows Trump Administration to Implement Public Charge Rule

The rule will give the government sweeping powers to deny green cards to low-income applicants

Jan 27, 2020

The Supreme Court against a blue sky backdrop.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s new public charge rule took effect on Feb. 24, 2020, and applies nationwide, including in Illinois. On June 10, an appeals court temporarily blocked the government from enforcing the rule in Illinois, but a Supreme Court ruling in Feb. overrides this latest decision, allowing the rule to remain in effect in Illinois.

The new rule affects people applying for green cards and visas from within the United States, through a process known as “Adjustment of Status.” For those applying for green cards and visas from outside the United States — through “Consular Processing” — see this Boundless guide.

The Supreme Court on Monday allowed the Trump administration to move forward with implementing the Department of Homeland Security’s controversial “public charge rule,” which makes it harder for low-income people to obtain green cards.

In a 5-4 ruling, the justices lifted a nationwide injunction blocking the rule, while legal challenges to the regulation will continue to be argued in lower courts around the country.

Boundless CEO Xiao Wang called the Supreme Court’s decision a “huge disruption” to immigrants and their families.

“It’s disappointing that a misguided policy that hurts the American economy, millions of families, and goes directly against American values is going to be implemented before the lawsuits are resolved,” he said.

The government can now enforce the rule nationwide except in Illinois, where the rule is still under a statewide injunction.

What is the public charge rule?

The public charge rule will give the government sweeping powers to deny green cards to applicants it suspects won’t be able to financially support themselves when in the United States. Immigration officials will consider multiple factors such as age, health, financial status, and English proficiency to decide whether people are likely at any time in the future to use public benefits such as Medicaid and food stamps. The new regulation is a dramatic expansion of rules that have been in place for more than a century.

The government announced the new rule in August, but it was quickly challenged in courts across the nation, and five federal judges imposed injunctions blocking the rule from being implemented. A judge in New York criticized the rule as “offensive” and “repugnant to the American Dream.” Appeals courts later lifted most of the injunctions.

Justice Neil M. Gorsuch wrote in Monday’s court order that nationwide injunctions were a growing problem, calling them “not normal.”

“It has become increasingly apparent that this court must, at some point, confront these important objections to this increasingly widespread practice,” wrote Justice Gorsuch. “As the brief and furious history of the regulation before us illustrates, the routine issuance of universal injunctions is patently unworkable, sowing chaos for litigants, the government, courts, and all those affected by these conflicting decisions.”

Do you know your risk of being denied a green card under the public charge rule?

Use the free Boundless Public Charge Risk Estimator to calculate your risk, and learn more here about the rule.

If you need legal advice on these issues, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) can help find a licensed immigration attorney near you.

Alternatively, the U.S. Department of Justice accredits certain non-profit organizations that provide low-cost or free immigration legal services.

To stay up to date on changes throughout the U.S. immigration system, follow Boundless on Twitter or Facebook.

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