Supreme Court votes to allow immigrant wealth tax

Sara Avery | Staff Writer

The Trump administration has been given permission to move forward with plans to deny immigrants permanent legal status if they are deemed likely to become overdependent on government programs. The Supreme Court voted 5-4, with the majority coming from the conservative justices, the New York Times reported. 

HU student Khyala Turner, a sophomore kinesiology major, believes that the ruling is un-American. 

“America is a nation that is supposed to care for all people, no matter your economic status,” Turner said.

The Trump administration announced in August that they would expand the definition of “public charge.” Previously, the designation was only given to immigrants who are expected to be dependent on substantial cash benefits from the government. In the past, less than 1 percent of applicants were disqualified because of this designation, the New York Times reported. 

With the expanded definition, government assistance programs like Medicaid and federal housing will now be included in the assessment. The criteria also includes anyone they believe will need extensive assistance for more than 12 months in a three-year period.

New York Solicitor General Barbara D. Underwood believes that the new rule would radically change settled immigration policy. 

“The rule’s vast expansion of ‘public charge’ — to include employed individuals who receive any amount of certain means-tested benefits for even brief periods of time — is a stark departure from a more-than-century-long consensus that has limited the term to individuals who are primarily dependent on the government for long-term subsistence,” she wrote in a response to the decision.

So far, five trial judges have entered injunctions to stop the ruling, after several lower courts appealed the decision. A federal judge in New York issued an injunction as well after New York, Connecticut, Vermont and others filed a lawsuit against the rule, NBC reported.

Justice Neil Gorsuch issued a statement about his opinions on the injunctions: “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.”

Even if the ruling is reversed later, in the interim, it may still adversely affect current green-card holders and applicants.

“This will engender a lot of fear from immigrants trying to seek visas or green cards,” Claudia Center, a senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, told Business Insider. 

“This new ruling is hypocritical to American ideals,” said Hampton University student Lauren Williams, a junior political science major. “America has always been a safe haven for immigrants, and the creation of a ‘wealth test’ is going to force more people to be denied access into this country.”

There is fear from groups challenging the decisions that immigrants applying for permanent status will forgo benefits that they need out of fear of consequence for accepting such benefits, the New York Times reported. Lawyers for the groups wrote that these choices could lead to “increased malnutrition and increased prevalence of communicable diseases,” as well as “increased poverty and housing instability.”

Despite the potential problems, Solicitor General Noel Francisco, expressed to the Supreme Court that the goal was to decrease immigrants applying for green cards from using public benefits. He doesn’t believe that the negative effects applicants may experience will “outweigh the long-term harms the government will experience while the rule is enjoined.”

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