Last month, the Supreme Court voted to allow the Trump administration's immigrant wealth test to take effect in 49 states while the measure goes through the appeals process. And on Friday, the Court's five conservatives voted to permit the same measure to take effect in Illinois. The new policy allows legal immigrants' use of public benefits such as food stamps to be counted as negative factors in their green card applications—and in her biting dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor accused her colleagues on the Court of favoring the Trump administration.
Sotomayor wrote of the frequency with which the conservative-controlled Court grants the Trump administration stay applications—allowing Trump policies to go into effect even after they've been blocked in the lower courts. “Claiming one emergency after another, the government has recently sought stays in an unprecedented number of cases, demanding immediate attention and consuming limited court resources in each,” wrote the justice. “And with each successive application, of course, its cries of urgency ring increasingly hollow.”
The new policy—which was apparently the brainchild of anti-immigrant Trump advisor Stephen Miller—allows immigration officials to consider factors like health ailments, educational attainment, and use of non-cash public assistance in denying green cards. Experts say the measure will force immigrants to choose between their chances at earning a green card and using services like food stamps and housing benefits to feed and home themselves and their children.
Sotomayor wrote that the Court shows a degree of favor to the Trump administration that it denies condemned prisoners seeking stays of execution:
Perhaps most troublingly, the Court’s recent behavior on stay applications has benefited one litigant over all others. This Court often permits executions—where the risk of irreparable harm is the loss of life—to proceed, justifying many of those decisions on purported failures “to raise any potentially meritorious claims in a timely manner.” ... Yet the Court’s concerns over quick decisions wither when prodded by the Government in far less compelling circumstances— where the Government itself chose to wait to seek relief, and where its claimed harm is continuation of a 20-year status quo in one State.
While the new green card policy is still being appealed, the Court's ruling could have major consequences for its legal future. By allowing the measure to go into effect before it has made its way through the appeals process, the Supreme Court is signaling support for the policy to the lower courts, which Sotomayor described in her dissent as "upend[ing] the normal appellate process, putting a thumb on the scale in favor of the party that won a stay."
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