As discussed here, the administration proposed a change to one of the nation’s oldest immigration regulations, the “public charge” rule, by imposing new criteria by which those immigrating to the U.S. will be assessed for the risk that they may become public charges in the future. Among other changes, under the new rule, immigrants who do not already have a strong command of English, at least a high school education (including those who are too young to have completed high school), a job lined up prior to immigrating, and who are unable to offer the counterweight of a household income exceeding 250% of the annual federal poverty line would be denied residency in the U.S.
Before the new rule was due to take effect on October 15, 2019, several federal lawsuits were filed, and five federal district courts issued rulings blocking its implementation while challenges to its legality are underway. The administration appealed those decisions, resulting in two appellate rulings lifting the respective lower court injunctions.
On January 7, 2020, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals heard the government’s request to lift one of the nationwide injunctions, but its subsequent ruling left the nationwide block of the new public charge rule in place.
On January 13, 2020, the administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court to lift the nationwide injunction, allowing the new “public charge” rule to go into effect while its legality is challenged.
Estimates are that were it to take effect, the new public charge rule would slash immediate family immigration by more than 50%. Immediate family immigrants make up about two-thirds of annual immigration to the U.S., and are the majority of immigrants who arrive in Maine each year.
As noted here, net legal immigration to the U.S. dropped dramatically between 2016 and 2019. Implementation of the public charge rule could lead to about 400,000 fewer people successfully immigrating to the U.S. annually, at a time when our population is aging or dying and leaving the workforce, and our birthrates are low. Immigrants are crucial to stem the nation’s shrinking labor supply and to keep our communities and economy vibrant.
This case at the Supreme Court will be one to watch.