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Catholic Agencies Disappointed by Court’s Order Limiting Immigrant Aid

The U.S. Supreme Court is seen in Washington. (Photo: Tyler Orsburn/CNS)

By Carol Zimmerman

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Catholic Charities USA and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, known as CLINIC, expressed disappointment with the Supreme Court’s Jan. 27 order allowing the Trump administration to go forward with a new rule meant to limit immigrants’ use of government benefit programs.

The court’s “unprecedented ruling” in favor of the administration’s revisions to government policy “harms families, targets lawful immigrants, and could prevent families from receiving vital nutrition and housing assistance,” said a Catholic Charities USA statement.

Dominican Sister Donna Markam, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, urged the Trump administration “to reconsider this harsh and unnecessary policy and rescind it in its entirety.” She said it will impose “a chilling effect on access to basic services, creating fear among eligible individuals threatening family unity and stability.”

She also said the decision in favor of this policy “signals a watershed change of course from the best moments of our American heritage of welcoming immigrants and refugees.”

In its 5-4 ruling, the court gave the Trump administration the go-ahead with its “public charge” rule allowing the administration to deny green cards to legal immigrants based on their reliance on public assistance such as food stamps, Medicaid and housing vouchers.

The rule was challenged by immigration groups and states, including California, Illinois, Maryland and Washington. It was put on hold by a nationwide injunction from a federal district court in New York.

The Supreme Court’s order reversed this injunction while legal challenges continue in several federal courts. A separate injunction still blocks the rule from being implemented in Illinois.

The government had argued to the Supreme Court that it would suffer “effectively irreparable harm” if it could not implement the rule while it appealed a pair of orders by a federal district court in New York.

The Supreme Court’s brief order said it temporarily put the lower court’s rulings on hold until the government’s appeals to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit or even the Supreme Court, were resolved.

In briefs urging the court to turn down the government’s request, challengers said the new rule was a “vast expansion” of how the government had initially defined a public charge, which applied only to people who were dependent on the government for long-term aid. They also said the government had not argued that it needed to enforce this rule for reasons of public safety or national security.

The rule, which stems from federal immigration law, could prevent immigrants from receiving green cards, or documentation certifying permanent U.S. residency, if the government believes that they could become a public charge by their reliance on government assistance.

Last August, the Department of Homeland Security said the term “public charge” refers to noncitizens who receive government aid such as cash, health care or housing for more than 12 months over a three-year period. The rule also considers age, employment history and finances to determine if an immigrant could become a future public charge.

In a separate opinion to the court’s order, Justice Neil Gorsuch, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, said district court judges should no longer be allowed to issue nationwide injunctions.

“The rise of nationwide injunctions may just be a sign of our impatient times,” Gorsuch wrote. “But good judicial decisions are usually tempered by older virtues.”

Ken Cuccinelli, the acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security, praised the court’s order in a Jan. 27 statement, saying: “Self-sufficiency and self-reliance are key American values not to be litigiously dismissed, but to be encouraged and adopted by the next generation of immigrants.”

“We plan to fully implement this rule in 49 states and are confident we will win the case on the merits,” he added.

A Jan. 27 statement by CLINIC said the court’s action is far from the last word on whether the government’s rule is legal.

“While we are obviously disappointed that the Supreme Court has allowed the public charge rule to be implemented while the court challenges proceed, we remain hopeful that the rule will ultimately be declared illegal,” said Bradley Jenkins, CLINIC’s federal litigation attorney.

He added that the justices “did not say anything one way or another about whether they thought the public charge rule violates the law.”

A Jan. 27 tweet from the American Immigration Council said enforcing this rule would mean “many people could be forced to choose between accessing the assistance they and their children need now or securing permanent legal immigration status to be with their families in the future.”

One thought on “Catholic Agencies Disappointed by Court’s Order Limiting Immigrant Aid

  1. Unfortunately, Immigrant aid is intended as just that ( Aid ) for legal immigrants while they establish a means of self support. It was never intended as a permanent meal ticket, but is and has been blatantly abused at the taxpayer’s expense. I’m so tired of President Trump being portrayed as some sort of villain for enforcing the laws in our country. I was raised Catholic, and suffered eight years of physical and mental abuse at the hands of the Dominican nuns. For the Pope to attack Our GREAT POTUS likening him to King Herod was both hypocritical and untrue. Where was the Pope / Cardinal Dolan during the march for life, or when Governor Cuomo passed the bill legalizing full term abortion, and lighting up buildings in New York in celebration ? I’m sure that you’ll just delete this post because it doesn’t fit your anti Trump narrative, but try practicing what you preach before you begin finding fault with others. Meanwhile, perhaps the Catholic Church could manage to part with some of it’s wealth in real estate and the Vatican. Christ didn’t live in a palace behind a wall with all of this glitz and luxury.

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