Justices, 5-4, Allow Immigrant ‘Wealth Test’ Rules

The Supreme Court, by a 5 to 4 vote, allowed the Trump administration to begin using “wealth test” rules making it easier to deny immigrants residency or admission to the U.S. because they have used or might use public-assistance programs, the Washington Post reports. The decision, responding to an emergency petition by the administration, lifts a nationwide injunction imposed by a judge in New York. The government can begin applying the new standards, which critics say would place a burden on poor immigrants from non-English-speaking countries, while challenges continue in lower courts. The order was issued as Chief Justice John Roberts was presiding over President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate. He was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. All four of the court’s liberal justices — Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — disagreed.

The rules establish new criteria for who can be considered “public charges” dependent on the U.S. government for benefits and ineligible for green cards and a path to U.S. citizenship. They were proposed to start in October but were delayed by lower-court decisions. Under the new policy, immigrants would be suspect if they are in the U.S. legally and use public benefits — such as Medicaid, food stamps or housing assistance — too often or are deemed likely to someday rely on them. The criteria provide “positive” and “negative” factors for immigration officials to weigh as they decide on green-card applications. Negative factors include if a person is unemployed, dropped out of high school or is not fluent in English. David Leopold, a former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said, “This rule is an all-out assault on legal immigration.”

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