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The rule has been criticized for targeting poor immigrants of color, primarily from Latin America, Africa, and parts of Asia.

Immigrants who dream of making a life in the United States will now have to pass what many critics call a “wealth test” if they want to receive legal status.

In a 5-4 ruling handed down Monday, the Supreme Court lifted a nationwide injunction on a proposal issued by the Department of Homeland Security that makes it easier to deny immigrants legal status or entry into the country based on whether they have used or could use public-assistance programs, such as food stamps or Medicaid. 

Opponents to the rule say this change in policy will hurt immigrant communities. 

“Although this move from #SCOTUS is deeply disheartening, it only strengthens our resolve to continue to fight — both in the courtroom & alongside our communities — for a future in which every family can thrive,” tweeted the National Immigration Law Center shortly after the ruling was announced.

The rules establish new standards for who is considered to be a “public charge,” or someone who is dependent on the federal government for benefits. These individuals can now be denied permanent residence (or green cards) and thus robbed of legal status and a path to citizenship. 

“It’s bad policy, but it’s particularly odious in that it’s really about controlling the future composition of America.”

Previously, the assessment over whether an immigrant was a “public charge” depended on whether they were likely to get more than half of their income from cash benefits, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or Supplemental Security Income from Social Security.

Under the new regulations, however, anyone who relies on cash or non-cash benefits like Medicaid, housing assistance, or food stamps for more than 12 months in a three-year period can be considered a “public charge” and thus denied a green card. 

Immigration officials can also consider an immigrant’s age, health, education level, employment status, income level, and ability to speak English to determine if they are at risk of becoming a “public charge.” But under the new rules, even immigrants who are employed can be denied green cards. 

The rule has been criticized for targeting poor immigrants of color, primarily from Latin America, Africa, and parts of Asia. 

A study from the Migration Policy Institute found that more than seven in 10 arrivals from Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean would have their chances of obtaining a green card reduced because their incomes aren’t high enough. Immigrants from Europe and Canada would be least affected by the rule change, according to the study.

Immigration rights groups were quick to blast the Court’s decision, tying the new rule to what they see as the Trump administration’s overarching anti-immigrant agenda.

“It’s not only bad policy but we really do believe this is part of Stephen Miller’s white nationalist agenda to end family based immigration and lower the overall number of immigrants and refugees in the United States,” said Megan Essaheb, director of immigration advocacy at Asian Americans Advancing Justice. 

Miller, a senior adviser to President Trump, has promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories, and spearheaded the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies.

“We see it as part and parcel of the Muslim and refugee ban and the horror that’s happened at the border with jailing asylum seekers and separating children from their parents,” Essaheb told COURIER. “It’s bad policy, but it’s particularly odious in that it’s really about controlling the future composition of America.”

The ACLU also criticized the ruling, emphasizing that it stands to harm those with disabilities. 

“This policy is yet another way for the Trump administration to hurt immigrants. It enshrines the false stereotype that people with disabilities do not contribute to our society,” Claudia Center, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Disability Rights Program, said in a statement.

There are approximately four million non-citizens in the U.S. who would likely be affected by the public charge rule, according to an analysis from the New American Economy, a bipartisan research and advocacy organization.

While many immigrants aren’t even eligible for public benefits, the rule has already had a chilling effect on those who are. A 2019 study from the Urban Institute found that, of nearly 2,000 adults in immigrant families surveyed, 13.7 percent said they or one of their relatives chose not to participate in a non-cash benefit program in 2018 for fear of risking future green card status. 

In the long term, the rule could lead as many as 4.7 million people to withdraw from Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

The rule has also resulted in the spread of misinformation, causing fear among naturalized citizens and lawful permanent residents who are not impacted by the rule.

“We want naturalized citizens to know they’re not impacted by the rule. Lawful permanent residents are not impacted by the rule. We really don’t want people to not get public benefits that they’re qualified to receive if they need them,” Essaheb said. 

The change could also have devastating consequences for the broader American economy. A 2018 report from the nonpartisan Fiscal Policy Institute found that the economy stands to lose as much as $33.8 billion and 230,000 jobs if 35% of immigrants who use public assistance such as Medicaid and food stamps leave those programs. 

The Trump administration has argued that forcing immigrants to cover their own costs will save taxpayers money, but opponents  say that punishing legal immigrants who need financial help will put their health and safety in danger and leave local governments, hospitals, and businesses footing the bill.

The rule was first announced in August and was set to go into effect in October, but U.S. District Judge George B. Daniels issued an injunction, calling the proposed rule “repugnant to the American Dream of the opportunity for prosperity and success through hard work and upward mobility.”

The Supreme Court, apparently, disagreed.