Supreme Court Ruling Allows Trump Administration to Implement Anti-Immigrant Regulation While Challenges Are Heard

January 27, 2020 (posted edition revised Jan. 28, 2020)

Hayley Burgess, NILC, 202-805-0375, [email protected]
Barbara Semedo, CLASP, 202-906-8010, [email protected]

Supreme Court Ruling Allows Trump Administration to Implement Anti-Immigrant Regulation While Challenges Are Heard

WASHINGTON, DC — The U.S. Supreme Court today temporarily lifted nationwide court orders blocking implementation of the Trump administration’s public charge regulation, allowing this widely opposed wealth test to take effect while several cases challenging the legality of the rule make their way through the courts. That regulation threatens the health, nutrition, and housing of families — overwhelmingly families of color — all over the country. The multiple lawsuits challenging the regulation will still have to be decided by their merits, and the regulation may be overturned by courts hearing those cases.

Few people who are subject to the public charge qualify for public programs covered by the regulation, but the regulation’s expanded criteria, including age, credit score, and disability, are likely to harm many. The regulation has already done considerable harm, generating fear that has driven immigrant families to forego assistance for which they qualify. In addition to the first uptick in America’s child uninsured rate in more than a decade, the Kaiser Family Foundation has reported that about half of community health centers reported people declining or canceling coverage because of the public charge regulation. Anecdotal accounts nationwide suggest similar harm with respect to anti-hunger programs. Experts expect the fear resulting from today’s ruling will deepen the “chilling effect.”

The two injunctions that were stayed today are Make the Road New York v. Cuccinelli and New York v. Department of Homeland Security. In a 5-4 ruling, the justices did not focus significantly on the merits of the underlying suit. A written concurrence by Justices Gorsuch and Thomas questioned the propriety of nationwide injunctions in general.

“Nearly every sector of society has gone on record in opposition to this morally repugnant and legally dubious regulation, and for good reason: its implementation will hurt countless of immigrant and citizen families, and we’re all worse off as a result,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “This move by the Supreme Court is deeply disheartening and harmful for our low-income communities of color and our democracy. But it only strengthens our resolve to continue to fight — both in the courtroom and along with our communities — for a future in which every family can thrive.”

“The regulation itself directly affects benefit use by only a small number of people, but the Trump administration is counting on fear to amplify the harm,” said Olivia Golden, executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy. “The administration disregarded the law, the facts, and the voice of the American people to advance a brutal attack on millions of children and their families. Don’t let them win — fight fear with facts and make the best decision to protect your family. This regulation has already fueled fears that could cost millions their food, medical care, and homes”

The public charge regulation was finalized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in August 2019 despite a record-breaking 266,000 public comments having been received about it, the vast majority in opposition. It represents a drastic departure from how the public charge test was previously administered and is opposed by experts in fields ranging from health to education and economics.

The DHS regulation is much narrower than early drafts leaked by the administration in 2018, applying in its final form to only a few specific public programs and a small segment of people. It is also one among many Trump policies targeting immigrant families of color. Others advanced by Trump’s State Department, Census Bureau, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture Department, and immigration enforcement agencies, among others, have contributed to the harm.

“The public charge regulation is ultimately about disenfranchising low-income communities of color. Trump has launched a governmentwide assault on families of color, and we must meet that challenge with an equally massive resistance,” said Hincapié. “As a Latina and as an immigrant, I know that my community will continue to fight back against Trump’s attacks on our communities. We urge our allies to join the fight to protect immigrant families.”

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The following changes were made to the posted edition of this news release on Jan. 28: The first sentence of the second paragraph was deleted and two new sentences added in its place. A new sentence was added to the beginning of paragraph three (to provide the names of the two cases). And the first sentence of the quotation from Olivia Golden (paragraph five) was slightly revised.