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Supreme Court Rules on "Public Charge"

"On Monday [February 3], the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling along ideological lines that will allow the Trump administration’s controversial 'public charge' rule to move forward. Back in September 2018, the Trump administration proposed a rule that would make it harder for low-income immigrants to obtain green card status. It did so by expanding the set of criteria the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can use to determine whether or not someone is likely to become a 'public charge.' That term, introduced in the Immigration Act of 1882, refers to anyone primarily dependent on public assistance for income. Immigration authorities have long had the ability to deny visa applicants if they are likely to become a burden on taxpayers."

"Since the ‘90s, the definition DHS has used to decide whether or not someone may become a public charge has been pretty narrow: It’s applied only to people who receive cash assistance from the government and people who need long-term institutional care, such as in a hospital. As of 2018, only about 1.2 million families, or 3.2 million people, received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the federal welfare program that provides cash assistance. Now, DHS will also consider the use of other public benefits when deciding on visa applications. These include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and federally funded health insurance."

"Denials of visas for poor immigrants on public charge grounds have spiked in recent years, even without this policy. The State Department rejected more than 12,000 people last year, up from 1,033 in 2016, Politico reports."

"Knowing that applying for food stamps may someday count against them in a visa application will likely sway people against signing up for SNAP. In fact, as we reported in 2018, immigrant use of the program plummeted after Trump took office."

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