Ninth Circuit Lifts Injunctions Blocking Trump Admin’s ‘Public Charge’ Rule for Immigrants

Zachary Evans

A federal appeals court on Thursday lifted several injunctions that were blocking the Trump administration’s rule restricting immigration eligibility for individuals deemed likely to become public charges.

“Public charge” denotes immigrants who are likely to require government assistance, such as food stamps or Medicaid. The Trump administration had moved to restrict the number of new immigrants who would require such assistance, but several courts blocked the rule in October before it could take effect.

In its 2-1 decision, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed preliminary injunctions against the administration’s rule from federal courts in Washington and California. The rule is still blocked nationwide by courts in Maryland and New York, which the decision by the Ninth Circuit do not overturn.

“The phrase [“public charge”] is subject to multiple interpretations, it in fact has been interpreted differently, and the Executive Branch has been afforded the discretion to interpret it,” wrote Judges Jay Bybee and Sandra Ikuta, both appointed by George W. Bush. “Whether the change in policy results from changing circumstances or a change in administrations, the wisdom of the policy is not a question we can review.”

Judge John Owens, an Obama appointee, dissented, saying he would have permitted the stay on the Trump administration’s rule to give the court time for a more in-depth review of the policy.

“The Department of Justice is pleased with today’s decision to lift the injunction and respect the legal authority vested in the administration by the U.S. Congress,” a spokesman for the DOJ commented.

Judge Bybee added an additional section to the decision excoriating Congress for failing to pass immigration legislation that may have helped avoid a fight in the courts.

“We have seen case after case come through our courts, serious and earnest efforts, even as they are controversial, to address the nation’s immigration challenges. Yet we have seen little engagement and no actual legislation from Congress,” wrote Bybee. “It matters not to me as a judge whether Congress embraces or disapproves of the administration’s actions, but it is time for a feckless Congress to come to the table and grapple with these issues.”

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