The Supreme Court heard arguments on Wednesday in a dispute over whether Republican-led states may step in to defend a Trump-era immigration policy that the Biden administration has abandoned. The policy, a revision of the “public charge” rule, imposed a new wealth test on applicants for green cards. The policy at issue in the case revised the “public charge” rule, which allows officials to deny permanent legal status, green card, to immigrants who are likely to need public assistance. In the past, only substantial and sustained monetary help or long-term institutionalization counted, and fewer than 1 percent of applicants were disqualified on public-charge grounds.
The Trump administration’s revised rule broadened the criteria to include “noncash benefits providing for basic needs such as housing or food” used in any 12 months in a 36-month period. The policy was challenged in lawsuits around the nation, and several federal judges blocked it. But in January 2020, by a 5-to-4 vote, the Supreme Court revived the policy while appeals moved forward. After President Biden took office last year, his administration decided not to defend the policy in court. At the administration’s request, the Supreme Court dismissed a separate appeal that had reached the justices, and lower federal courts took similar actions. Relying on a nationwide ruling against the policy from the federal court in Illinois and without following administrative law procedures, the administration then revoked the policy. (It has since started the process to issue its own version.)