High Court Takes Up Challenge to Trump Immigration Rule

The case involving green card restrictions and public assistance is one of three that the Supreme Court added Monday to its spring calendar.

Hundreds of people overflow onto the sidewalk in a line snaking around the block outside a U.S. immigration office in San Francisco on Jan. 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

WASHINGTON (CN) — The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to rule on a policy enacted by former President Donald Trump that said immigrants who receive government assistance would be ineligible for green cards. 

Trump rolled out the so-called public charge rule back in 2019, but multiple court challenges and the Covid-19 pandemic have largely kept the policy knotted up.

The Supreme Court on Monday included a challenge by New York Attorney General Letitia James in Monday’s order list.

In petitioning for review last fall before Trump’s 2020 election defeat, Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall wrote that New York did not meet the zone-of-interest requirement of the Administrative Procedures Act to challenge Trump’s rule.

“The operative effect – and evident purpose – of the public-charge inadmissibility provision is to prevent the administration or adjustment of status of aliens who are likely to rely on taxpayer-funded public benefits,” the petition states. “Respondents are not themselves subject to that provision and the interests they seek to further through their suit are inconsistent with its purpose: rather than seeking to limit benefits usage by aliens, respondents’ object in bringing suit is to facilitate benefits usage by aliens.” (Emphasis in original.) 

But New York argued in its response brief that the case was a nullity following President Joe Biden’s election. 

“The incoming presidential administration has already announced that the final rule at issue here will be withdrawn or otherwise reversed within the administration’s first one hundred days — action that will eliminate any live controversy under Article III,” James wrote.

Per their custom, the justices did not issue any comment on why they are taking up the matter.

A New York federal judge enjoined the rule twice, finding most recently that it would deter immigrants from seeking treatment for Covid-19 and other government services. In another challenge to the same rule, the immigration rights organization Casa de Maryland obtained an injunction in Maryland that was later overturned by the Fourth Circuit. 

Separate from the public-charge rule, the Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear a challenge to another Trump policy, this one denying federal funding to medical clinics that refer women for abortions.

The third case that the Supreme Court accepted on Monday involves the sentencing of a felon for unlawful possession of a firearm.

Police saw William Wooden with the rifle inside his own home — Wooden apparently picked up the weapon after inviting officers in late one night in 2014 while they were in pursuit of a fugitive whose car had previously seen at his residence.

Police also confiscated drugs and other contraband from Wooden’s home.

In an interview Tuesday, Wooden’s attorney Allon Kedem said the high court will focus on Wooden’s sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act, or ACCA. Because of a string of 10 storage unit burglaries that happened on one night in 2005, Wooden faced an enhanced sentence of a little over 15 years in prison.

The Supreme Court rules on ACCA cases regularly, including the 2019 case Rehaif v. United States where it said the government cannot prosecute a felon for knowingly possessing a firearm without first proving that offender knew that possession was illegal. Kedem had been assistant to the U.S. solicitor general at the time, representing the government.

“I’m thrilled to represent Mr. Wooden; I believe in the argument we’ll be making,” said Kedem, who is now with Arnold & Porter.

In his petition for certiorari, Wooden asks whether the Sixth Circuit improperly expanded the scope of federal statute, “in the absence of clear statutory definition with regard to the vague term ‘committed on occasions different from one another.'”

The government’s opposition brief called it too late for Wooden to raise such challenges.

“Petitioner offers no sound reason for this court to address this argument in the first instance — particularly in a case that presents the issue only in a plain-error posture. He does not, for example, point to any division of authority within the courts of appeals on the question; indeed, the courts of
appeals have uniformly rejected the argument that Section 924(e)(1) is unconstitutionally vague.”

Neither the Department of Homeland Security nor Department of Justice responded to requests for comment Monday.

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