Supreme Court’s Public Charge Ruling Leaves Texas Immigration Advocates Worried

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The Supreme Court ruled that a new immigration rule could go into effect temporarily.
A Supreme Court ruling that allows new immigration restrictions to go into effect at least temporarily has the potential to harm immigrants in North Texas, advocates here say.

On Monday, the court allowed Trump administration officials to begin enforcing a rule that bars immigrants who can't support themselves — who are considered a public charge — from becoming permanent U.S. residents.

Yesterday the Supreme Court allowed the new immigration restriction to go into effect. The new rule’s potential to hurt immigrants has Dallas immigration advocates worried. Last year, President Donald Trump proposed expanding the definition of a public charge to include immigrants who use public assistance, like Medicaid and food stamps. With the Supreme Court’s ruling, those new qualifications will go into effect, for now.

While Texas immigration advocates have worried about the impact of the rule, it’s important to note that its implementation is temporary. Monday's ruling allows the new rules to go into effect until the conclusion of a lawsuit filed last year challenging those rules.

“It doesn’t mean that the arguments have any less merit or that the legality or illegality has been decided," said Jamie Olson, a policy analyst for Feeding Texas.

The new rules mandate that a green card applicant’s use of public assistance, as well as the person’s potential to do so in the future and income earning be taken into consideration when the application is evaluated.

Immigration advocates say the new rules unfairly target low-income immigrants and will make it harder for families to support themselves.

When the new rules were initially announced last year, fear and confusion surrounding them led many immigrants in Texas to whom the rules did not apply to ditch public assistance, because they were concerned that public benefit use would negatively impact their immigration status.

The rule only applies to immigrants applying actively for a green card, not their family members. But many families got rid of benefits, even for children who were U.S. citizens, said Cheasty Anderson, a senior policy analyst for the Children’s Defense Fund – Texas.

“Which means children are going to bed hungry, going to school hungry,” she told the Observer at the time.

But with the Supreme Court’s ruling, Olson anticipates a new wave of concerned immigrant families, even though the rule doesn’t apply to the the families who Feeding Texas serves, Olson said.

“I think fear and misinformation may cause some people to forgo applying for programs or drop off programs they’re eligible for,” she said.

“It doesn’t mean that the arguments have any less merit or that the legality or illegality has been decided." — Jamie Olson

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Around 1.8 million children and 3.5 million Texans qualified for SNAP assistance last year, and roughly 3.8 million Texans enrolled in Medicaid last year, according to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.

Shortly before the rule was set to go into effect, judges in several states, including New York and California, issued preliminary injunctions blocking administration officials from enforcing it. Earlier this month, the federal government requested that the Supreme Court override these injunctions pending a decision in the lawsuit filed against the rule.

Last week, New York, Connecticut, Vermont, New York City and several immigrant charity and advocacy organizations requested that the injunctions stay in place. But the Supreme Court sided with the federal government in a 5-4 ruling that overrides those blocks until the original lawsuit has made its way through the court system.

In his majority opinion supporting the temporary halt to the lower courts’ injunction, Justice Neil Gorsuch bemoaned the number of times lower courts issued temporary injunctions against federal government orders and rules recently.

“The real problem here is the increasingly common practice of trial courts ordering relief that transcends the concurring cases before them. … Rather than spending their time methodically developing arguments and evidence in cases limited to the parties at hand, both sides have been forced to rush from one preliminary injunction hearing to another,” he wrote.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer indicated they would have left the lower courts’ decisions in place until the lawsuit’s conclusion.

The new public charge rules will go into effect temporarily in all states except Illinois, where a federal appeals court kept a statewide injunction in place, according to Politico.