Last week a group of state and local governments, led by New York, asked the Supreme Court to temporarily block the government from implementing the “public charge” rule governing the admission of immigrants to the United States. The motion followed a January ruling by a divided Supreme Court that granted a request by the Trump administration for permission to enforce the rule while the government appeals a pair of orders by a federal district court in New York. Today the Trump administration responded to New York’s motion, urging the justices to deny it.
In asking the justices to put a temporary hold on the implementation of the public charge rule, New York and the other challengers argued last week that the rule is “impeding efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus, preserve scarce hospital capacity and medical supplies, and protect the lives of everyone in our communities—citizens and noncitizens alike.” The government pushed back against that argument sharply today. In a filing signed by U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco, the government emphasized that the court’s decision to allow it to enforce the rule while litigation is pending reflected the court’s view that the challenges to the rule are not likely to succeed. New York is not arguing, the government pointed out, “that the current public-health crisis has any bearing on that assessment, and they do not ask this Court to revisit it.” Instead, the government continued, New York wants the justices to act based on their “assessment of how the Executive Branch should best respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Such a request, the government suggested, is extraordinary, particularly because the government “has moved aggressively to address the current public-health emergency,” including by making clear that the use of publicly funded health care related to COVID-19 – “including testing, treatment, preventive care, and vaccinations” – “will not be considered in making predictions about whether” immigrants may become overly reliant on public benefits in the future. New York’s “attempt to discount that guidance is more than incorrect,” the government told the justices; “it is unhelpful by creating confusion about the Rule and the government’s COVID-19 response in an effort to advance this litigation.” Indeed, the government added later in the filing, to the extent that immigrants and their family members are not seeking testing or treatment for COVID-19, the problem is not the public charge rule itself but “mistaken beliefs” about the rule, and New York “should address that problem by helping to correct those misunderstandings – not by filing motions that, if anything, only reinforce them.”
This post is also published on SCOTUSblog.