Supreme Court allows immigrant “wealth tests” to proceed

| Feb 17, 2020 | US Immigration Law

The U.S. Supreme Court will allow the Trump administration to implement so-called “wealth test” rules making it easier to deny residency for immigrants because they have used or may need to use public-assistance programs.

The 5-4 decision means the government can apply the new standards by lifting a nationwide injunction that was granted by a New York federal judge. Critics say the ruling places undue hardships on more impoverished immigrants from non-English-speaking countries.

Decision establishes new criteria for public charges

Under the public charge rule, immigrants can be denied visas or permission to enter the U.S. due to a lack of economic resources or disabilities, making it likely they will need public assistance to survive. The new rules make it easier to deny green cards as well as a path to citizenship for low-income immigrants.

Under the policy, immigrants are considered “suspect” even if they are in the U.S. legally and use benefits, such as Medicaid, food stamps or housing assistance. The American Civil Liberties Union says the new criteria discriminates against disabled people and penalizes those who need Medicaid to pay for wheelchairs and respirators.

Opponents say the rules endanger immigrants health and safety

Federal officials say the new rules ensure that immigrants can pay for food, housing and other costs without burdening U.S. taxpayers. But, opponents say punishing legal immigrants who need financial aid will endanger their health and safety while potentially transferring the costs to state and local governments, hospitals, businesses and food banks.

Justices must still issue a decision over the lawsuit

The new rules were slated to go into effect last October and can now be implemented (except in Illinois) as the New York judge’s injunction was the only hurdle standing in the way for most of the nation. However, the Supreme Court must still decide the merits of the case as the justices’ January ruling was confined to the injunction that kept the rules from being implemented.