The rule makes it more difficult for immigrants to obtain legal status if they use public benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps and housing vouchers. Earlier in the term, a 5-4 court said the rule could go into effect nationwide while legal challenges play out.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, joined by the attorneys general of Connecticut and Vermont, argued that during the pandemic the rule is discouraging immigrants from accessing health benefits because they fear if they come forward it will threaten their eligibility for green cards and visa renewals.
She noted that many immigrants are “highly vulnerable” to the coronavirus because they work in industries that have been deemed “essential” in sectors such as health care, food and retail delivery that continue to operate during the crisis. She said they are more likely to be exposed to the virus and without adequate testing and treatment, more likely to suffer worse health outcomes.
“Since the Public Charge Rule came into effect,” James argued, “increasing numbers of immigrants have begun forbearing from Medicaid coverage and other publicly funded healthcare benefits based on concerns that using such benefits will render them a ‘public charge’ and thus jeopardize their ability to obtain legal permanent resident status and, eventually, citizenship.”
The new petition is the latest coronavirus-related petition brought to the Supreme Court, requiring the justices to examine how the pandemic is impacting issues that often divide them along familiar ideological lines.
So far, the justices split bitterly 5-4 when the court granted a request from the Republican National Committee to block an extension of absentee voting deadlines in Wisconsin because of the pandemic. The justices are currently considering a petition from supporters of abortion rights asking the justices to allow certain abortion procedures – barred because of Covid-19 – to go into effect. And lawyers for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients filed a petition with the Court asking the justices to take into consideration Dreamers’ contributions to the burdened health care system before rescinding DACA.