The Supreme Court issued a ruling Monday allowing the Trump administration to move ahead with its “Public Charge” policy that could block immigrants who wind up on the public dole from earning a pathway to citizenship.

The 5-4 decision is a major victory for President Trump, giving him a tentative go-ahead on one of his key policies.

Under the new rules, a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officer reviewing an application will look at the person’s history of access to public programs such as food stamps, many forms of Medicaid, public housing assistance, welfare cash payments and Supplemental Security Income benefits.

Emergency medical care, the school lunch program, student loans, energy assistance, homeless shelter access and children’s health insurance will not count against an immigrant, USCIS said.

The rules don’t apply to refugee, asylum or other humanitarian programs, and military families are exempt.

Lower courts had divided on the policy, with some blocking it and others allowing it to go into effect while court challenges proceeded.

That complex web of rulings prompted Justice Neil M. Gorsuch to complain Monday that things have gotten out of hand, and to say the high court must give guidance on when district judges can issue nationwide injunctions governing the entire country.

He said it creates “gamesmanship and chaos” in the courts, with both sides playing a game of chess as they try to advance or defense positions in multiple courts.

“The rise of nationwide injunctions may just be a sign of our impatient times. But good judicial decisions are usually tempered by older virtues,” he wrote in an opinion joined by Justice Clarence Thomas.

Dissenting Monday were the court’s four Democrat-appointed justices.
Federal law has long recognized the government’s right to deny admission or more permanent status to foreigners who threaten to become a drain on public programs.

Before Mr. Trump’s changes, the most recent policy was set by the Clinton administration, which recognized only a small number of programs whose use would make someone a public charge.

The new policy doesn’t change the fundamentals, but does add more programs to the list.

USCIS said use of a program does not automatically disqualify someone, but is a factor that the agency will look at.


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