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The Court Should Explain Itself

Terry H. Schwadron

Jan. 30, 2020

I hate it when the Supreme Court takes controversial decisions with no explanation.

This time it was a 5–4 decision, favored by the Trump administration, to lift an injunction that had halted new immigration rules that make it easier to deny residency or admission to the country if an immigrant — or anyone in his/her family — has ever used public-assistance programs.

Legal challenges to the actual program continue, but the injunction, the halt, has been removed.

The court’s liberal justices disagreed with the action. But neither side explained the decision, other than a mention that two justices were concerned about what they said was a growing number of nationwide injunctions imposed by lower courts.

You might think that at least that many justices would be concerned about a Trump administration that is issuing a mounting number of executive orders and rule changes, side-stepping Congress altogether, that mostly are ending up in court challenges altogether.

In other words, why aren’t they looking at what it is about the Trump administration that it doesn’t check on legalities first. The Muslim Travel Ban, environmental rollbacks, constant switcheroos from Congressionally approved budgets to pet White House projects all have ended up in court. No kidding there is an increase in the number of lower court injunctions: This administration is on a roll to move on regulations for political ends without checking on Constitutionality.


These particular rules set new criteria for those “public charges,” people who have received food stamps, Medicaid benefits, housing assistance — virtually anything at all, to stop their path towards green card status or eventual U.S. naturalization.

Because of the injunction, they have not kicked in yet.

The rules even extend to those who are “deemed likely to someday rely on public benefits.”

So, presumably it would be okay for former Prince Harry and his child to enter, because they probably can pay their own way, and not a random migrant seeking a better life. It feels anti-American.

So any immigrant in the United States who is unemployed, dropped out of high school or is not fluent in English might be denied a green card.

Obviously, this means that legal immigrants will shun seeking Medicaid even if they are ill, and will go to emergency rooms paid for by local and state governments instead. Just consider the current health crisis arising from coronavirus. Are we really telling immigrants to spread the disease rather than seek treatment that may be government underwritten?

This makes sense?

The changes are not retroactive and exempt refugees and asylees who fled persecution for safety in the United States.

U.S. District Judge George B. Daniels in New York had ruled that the changes upend 130 years of how the “public charge” definition has been interpreted. Generally, it was used to cover an individual “who is or is likely to become primarily and permanently dependent on the government for subsistence.” He declared the proposed change would be “repugnant to the American Dream of the opportunity for prosperity and success through hard work and upward mobility.”

Several judges imposed similar injunctions, but two courts of appeals overturned them.

With empathy in short supply these days, the least the Supreme Court can offer us is a little bit of explanation along with their decisions.


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