In an emergency request (pdf) to the top court, the Justice Department asked the justices on Monday to stay a pair of injunctions issued by a New York district court that blocks the “public charge” rule from being implemented while the cases are played out in court.
The rule, which was issued last year, provides clarification about what factors would be considered when determining whether someone is likely at any time in the future to become a public charge. A “public charge” refers to an individual who is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, by receiving assistance such as food stamps or Medicaid. The rule will consider a person a public charge if they receive at least one government benefit for more than 12 months in a three-year period.
The rule was challenged in several states, leading to injunctions that prevented the rule from going into effect on Oct. 15, 2019. Two federal appeals courts—the Fourth Circuit and Ninth Circuit—lifted similar injunctions last month. Despite the partial wins, the rule still cannot be implemented because the injunctions from New York will continue to apply across the country.
Three states—New York, Connecticut, and Vermont—and a group of immigration organizations sued the Trump administration, in separate cases, to stop the rule of taking effect. A New York district court found in favor for the challengers, prompting an appeal.
On Jan. 8, a three-judge panel at the U.S Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit denied lifting the nationwide halt issued by the district court.
The Justice Department argued in their request that a stay on the injunctions is appropriate because the Supreme Court is likely to take up the appeals from the Second Circuit because two other appeals court have already concluded that the rule is likely to be upheld.
They argued that the “decisions by multiple courts of appeals have been rendered effectively meaningless within their own territorial jurisdictions because of a single district court’s nationwide injunctions, starkly illustrate the problems that such injunctions pose.”
The department also argued that the injunctions would also “would result in effectively irreparable harm to the government.”
In the Ninth Circuit Court ruling, the only order where the judges gave reasons for their decision, the judges found 2-1 that Congress did not provide direction on how the phrase “public charge” should be interpreted and the Department of Homeland Security has the discretion to do so, within its authority.