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US Supreme Court clears way for Trump rule banning legal immigrants who would be ‘public charge’

US Supreme Court clears way for Trump rule banning legal immigrants who would be ‘public charge’
The Trump administration will be allowed to tighten immigration restrictions with a policy that could see immigrants denied a green card if they are likely to receive public benefits, the US Supreme Court has ruled.

The 5-4 decision on Monday overrode the block on the policy imposed by a federal judge in New York and upheld by an appeals panel. The controversial new rule, which opponents have slammed as a “wealth test” meant to keep out immigrants from poor countries, can now take effect.

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Last August, the Trump administration expanded the so-called “public charge” rule, which required immigration officials to turn away individuals likely to become primarily dependent on direct government cash assistance or institutionalization, to include a wider range of government benefits. A New York district court ruling blocked its implementation in October, which was upheld in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this month. 

Immigrants deemed likely to receive Medicaid (government health insurance), Supplemental Security Income, housing, or food assistance over a total of 12 months within any three-year period may be denied permanent residency under the new version of the rule. Immigration officials would examine applicants’ age, education, and ability to speak English, among other attributes, to determine their fitness. 

Seeking benefits for family members is not prohibited, though a 2019 Urban Institute survey found that fear of hurting their own immigration status has already spooked foreign-born parents out of seeking benefits for citizen children born in the US.

While several other states, including Connecticut and Vermont, along with nonprofit organizations and the city of New York, have filed suits to stop the implementation of the rule, the Supreme Court’s decision means it can take effect everywhere except Illinois, where a lower court has ruled it cannot be enforced. 

Critics slammed the court’s ruling as going against the country’s founding principles. Many took to social media to remind the Trump administration that the Statue of Liberty - perhaps the most iconic symbol of the US - bears a poem reading “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” 

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Democratic presidential candidates railed against what they framed as the Trump administration’s betrayal of the American dream.

Defenders of the move echoed the words of US Citizenship and Immigration Services director Ken Cuccinelli, who declared last year that it was an example of the “old American value” of “self-sufficiency” being “one of the things that distinguishes us” (though he didn’t say from whom).

Rags to riches” stories of foreigners coming to the US and “making good” have drawn immigrants since the country’s beginnings.

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