The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) accepted Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s petition to defend previous President Donald Trump’s updates to a rule limiting green cards and citizenship to those who haven’t and won’t become dependent on welfare programs. Brnovich announced this update in a press release Friday.
“When other federal officials won’t defend the law, I will,” asserted Brnovich. “The Public Charge Rule is a commonsense policy based on a real inconvenient truth. Overrunning our welfare programs right now would be like pulling back the last safety net for Americans who need it most.”
Congress first enacted the “Public Charge Rule” in 1882: a concept that officials could deny immigrants entrance, visas, and even citizenship if officials deemed they were likely to become a “public charge.” The definition of “public charge” varied over the years. In 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) defined “public charge” as illegal immigrants who received one year’s worth of welfare benefits in the aggregate within a three-year period. Under that definition, two benefits received in one month counted as two months.
According to the latest available data analysis from the Center for Immigration Studies, about 55 percent of noncitizens relied on welfare in 2018. Noncitizens in their study included both green card holders and illegal immigrants. While the law does prohibit illegal immigrants from receiving welfare benefits, noncitizens may receive benefits on behalf of any children they have born in the U.S.
In April, SCOTUS rejected a previous petition from 14 states attempting to revive Trump-era litigation that the Biden Administration halted. Texas led the charge on that petition. The states claimed that dropping the Trump rule would force them to provide millions of dollars of government benefits to illegal immigrants.
SCOTUS determined that states would have to work through lower courts before they’d take up the case, if at all.
Their recent acceptance means that Arizona and 12 other states – Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia – may be eligible to defend the rule even though the Biden Administration has decided against doing so.
SCOTUS will not be deciding on the legality of the rule, and oral arguments haven’t been scheduled.
Arizona is leading a coalition of 13 states to defend the Public Charge Rule, a federal immigration policy that ensures noncitizens can financially support themselves to become U.S. citizens or obtain green cards. Joining Arizona are attorneys general from the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia.
In 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) created a rule that expanded the definition of “public charges” to include anyone who received certain government benefits (like Medicaid or food stamps) for more than 12 months over a three-year period. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) stopped applying the Public Charge Final Rule to all pending applications and petitions on March 9, 2021. USCIS removed content related to the vacated 2019 Public Charge Final Rule from the affected USCIS forms and has posted updated versions of affected forms.
The states are asking the Supreme Court of the United States to allow them to intervene in a lawsuit challenging the policy after the Biden Administration abandoned defense of the rule earlier this year. Arizona led a coalition of 13 states in March at the Ninth Circuit to intervene in the lawsuit but was denied.
Arizona and the other states are also asking Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) to grant review of a Ninth Circuit decision that invalidated the Public Charge Rule. Previously, SCOTUS granted review of a case involving the same issues. But, after SCOTUS agreed to hear the case, the Biden Administration abruptly shifted course. Without any notice or warning—and breaking established norms—it sprung an unprecedented, coordinated, and multi-court gambit to dismiss all pending cases pursuant to a settlement. Attorney General Brnovich believes that the validity of the Public Charge Rule should be decided on its legal merits, not pervasive strategic surrenders by the Biden Administration.
Congress has had a Public Charge requirement in one form or another for over a century according to the Attorney General’s Office. Under existing federal immigration law, noncitizens are not eligible to receive a green card if they are reliant upon government assistance, otherwise known as a “public charge.”
Arizona and the other states claim to have a significant interest in upholding the Public Charge Rule because it reduces demand on already over-stretched government assistance programs. The federal government only pays a portion of the costs involved in many of the programs at issue, therefore increasing the strain on over-stretched state assistance programs. It is estimated the rule will save the states $1.01 billion annually in direct payments. For example:
In 2019 Arizona spent $3,059,000,000 on Medicaid benefits. Increasing the number of Medicaid participants would increase the State’s spending on Medicaid (the costs of which typically exceed State general fund growth) and would require the State to make budget adjustments elsewhere.
Arizona paid $85 million in maintenance-of-effort costs for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) programs in 2019. TANF resources are limited. In 2016, less than a quarter of eligible impoverished families received this assistance.
States incur administrative costs for each Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipient. For FY 2016, Arizona paid $77,730,088 in administrative costs for administering SNAP. By admitting aliens who are unlikely to depend on this resource, the State will save money that would have otherwise gone to fund administrative costs for aliens who would depend on the program.