A divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Trump administration and against the wishes of Los Angeles city leaders Monday, allowing federal officials to make changes to rules that could make it more difficult for undocumented immigrants to gain citizenship status if they use — or if the government determines they are likely to use — public benefits or housing.
The rule changes — which alter the definition of a “public charge” – – were proposed in 2018 and were planned to be effective by October before legal challenges blocked their enforcement.
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of allowing the rule changes to be enforced.
“As the daughter of immigrants who worked their fingers to the bone to provide for their children, I am disgusted by this partisan ruling,” Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez said in a statement. “Not everyone comes to this country with wealth and education, particularly black and brown immigrants this horrible policy is directed at. What they do come with is grit and determination to provide for their children so they can be successful and achieve the American Dream. This ruling devalues those very American qualities for immigrants who don’t have millionaire parents to subsidize their lives.”
The Department of Homeland Security, under the rule changes, said it would take into account whether an undocumented person “is likely at any time to become a public charge” by applying for government-subsidized housing or food vouchers when determining if someone is eligible for citizenship status or if they apply for visas and green cards.
The rule change would define a public charge as someone who relies the benefits for more than 12 months in a three-year period, although there are some exemptions to the changes.
The DHS said it will also consider the receipt of public benefits by certain members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families, certain international adoptees and receipt of Medicaid in certain contexts, especially by aliens under the age of 21, pregnant women and for certain services funded by Medicaid.
District courts blocked the rule from being enacted in 2019, but the Trump administration was successful before two federal appeals courts who would have allowed the policy to be enforced.
Martinez said that since the rule changes were proposed, fewer people have applied for the benefits, which could create a public health concern for people who depend on the programs.
DHS claims that since the 1800s, the federal government has deemed immigrants must be self-sustaining.
The state of California and more than a dozen states and counties sued the administration over the public charge policies.
Mayor Eric Garcetti spoke about Latino and immigrant health care issues at a small summit meeting in December.
“We’ve got people who, in the extreme, are dying, whether it’s from cancer because they are scared about going to a clinic, whether it’s people on the streets of Los Angeles or whether it’s just people who don’t have access because they don’t see themselves in the health care system,” Garcetti told City News Service during the gathering.
Roughly 544,000 people apply for green cards annually, according to The Associated Press, and according to the government, 382,000 are in categories that would make them subject to the new review.
Immigrants make up a small portion of those getting public benefits, since many are ineligible to get them because of their immigration status, the AP stated.