WASHINGTON (AP) - A divided Supreme Court on Monday allowed the Trump administration to put in place a policy connecting the use of public benefits with whether immigrants could become permanent residents.
The new policy can be used to deny green cards to immigrants over their use of public benefits including Medicaid, food stamps and housing vouchers, as well as other factors.
The justices' order came by a 5-4 vote and reversed a ruling from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York that had kept in a place a nationwide hold on the policy following lawsuits that have been filed against it.
The court's four liberal justices, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, would have prevented the policy from taking effect.
Federal appeals courts in San Francisco and Richmond, Virginia, had previously overturned trial court rulings against the policy. An injunction in Illinois remains in effect, but applies only to that state.
The lawsuits will continue, but immigrants applying for permanent residency must now show they wouldn't be public charges, or burdens to the country.
The new policy significantly expands what factors would be considered to make that determination, and if it is decided that immigrants could potentially become public charges at any point in the future, that legal residency could be denied.
Roughly 544,000 people apply for green cards annually. 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.
In a separate opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch urged his colleagues to confront the “real problem” of so-called nationwide injunctions, orders issued by a single judge that apply everywhere. In this case, even though the administration won rulings in two different appellate courts covering 14 states, its policy could not take effect.
“What in this gamesmanship and chaos can we be proud of?” Gorsuch wrote in an opinion joined by Justice Clarence Thomas.
Ken Cuccinelli, the acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security, praised the high court order. “It is very clear that the U.S. Supreme Court is fed up with these national injunctions by judges who are trying to impose their policy preferences instead of enforcing the law," Cuccinelli said.