U.S. Supreme Court allows DHS to enforce public charge rule in Illinois

The U.S. Supreme Court on February 21 voted 5-4 to allow the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to enforce in Illinois a rule that allows the federal government to deny immigrants a visa or a green card if they rely on government assistance. The court let DHS enforce the same rule elsewhere in the U.S. following a January 27 order.

DHS issued the final rule detailing how federal agencies determine the inadmissibility of immigrants likely to become public charges (e.g. dependent on government assistance) in August 2019. Five federal judges later issued injunctions blocking the rule from taking effect. Appellate courts lifted three of the injunctions in December 2019, but a nationwide injunction from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and a statewide injunction from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois remained in effect until the January 27 and February 21 orders from the U.S. Supreme Court.

DHS requested that the U.S. Supreme Court stay the statewide injunction issued by Judge Gary Feinerman of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. In his October 2019 order, Judge Feinerman held that the DHS rule would impose financial consequences on Cook County. He also held that the county would likely succeed in defending the argument that DHS exceeded its legal authority and acted arbitrarily and capriciously when it made the public charge rule.

The U.S. Supreme Court granted the request for a stay. Justices John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh ruled in favor of the stay while Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor dissented. Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion with the order, arguing, “It is hard to say what is more troubling: that the Government would seek this extraordinary relief seemingly as a matter of course, or that the Court would grant it.”

The decision allows the rule to take effect nationwide pending a final decision in _Wolf v. Cook County, Ill._ The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit heard oral argument in the case on February 26.

Click here to learn more about rulemaking, or click here to learn about the related U.S. Supreme Court order.

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About the author

Jace Lington

Jace Lington is a staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at jace.lington@ballotpedia.org

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