The Supreme Court late Friday removed one of the final barriers to nationwide enforcement of a controversial federal rule penalizing legal immigrants for using Medicaid and other public benefit programs.
In a 5-4 vote, the justices lifted a temporary stay preventing the Trump administration's public charge rule from going into effect in Illinois. The court struck down a nationwide injunction last month, but allowed Illinois to continue pending next week's hearing in the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The majority did not publish the reasoning behind its decision. In a dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor criticized the high court's ruling, saying the federal government hadn't shown it would be irreparably harmed by the delay. She also recognized that there has been a recent pattern of lower courts issuing injunctions and the government asking the Supreme Court to overturn them urgently.
"It is hard to say what is more troubling: that the government would seek this extraordinary relief seemingly as a matter of course, or that the court would grant it," she wrote.
Since the rule was finalized in August, it has been the subject of multiple lawsuits over whether the Department of Homeland Security had the authority to issue the policy. Federal immigration officials may consider legal immigrants' use of public benefits, such as Medicaid, housing and other programs as a strongly negative factor in their permanent resident applications. The rule was set to go into effect on Oct. 15, 2019.
Hospitals have claimed that the rule was affecting patients' choices to seek care before it was even finalized, with many telling their providers they would no longer attend appointments.
Sotomayor voiced a broader concern about her colleagues' decision to stay the injunction, as the federal government's continued cries of irreparable harm "ring increasingly hollow."
"I fear this disparity in treatment erodes the fair and balanced decisionmaking process that this court must strive to protect," she wrote.