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Second appeals court backs Trump’s rule that connects immigrants’ status with taxpayer burden

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The Trump administration saw another partial victory in efforts to curb legal immigration as a federal appeals court lifted a lower court injunction against the “public charge” policy.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday lifted an injunction which blocked the administration from implementing a rule that connects a legal immigrant’s status with federal benefits from government programs like food stamps or Medicaid, The Hill reported.

(Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)

The three-judge panel on the Richmond, Va.-based Fourth Circuit reached a 2-1 decision on Monday that echoed a similar one by the San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit last week in lifting preliminary injunctions issued against the administration’s “public charge” policy before it took effect in October.

But, as in the Ninth Circuit ruling, the Fourth Circuit’s decision does not clear the way for the Trump plan to fully take effect due to a ruling by a district judge in New York under the Second Circuit which is in effect nationwide.

The White House applauded Monday’s decision while hoping for a turn-around in the still-active national injunction.

“The Fourth Circuit’s lifting of the lawless nationwide injunction imposed against the administration’s public charge immigration regulation is a major step forward for the rule of law,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said.

“It is our hope that the Second Circuit will, like the Ninth and Fourth Circuits have already done, lift the meritless nationwide injunction a New York District Court has imposed against the rule so that it can be enforced, consistent with the plain letter of the law, for the benefit of all citizens and lawful residents of this country,” Grisham added.

Ninth Circuit Judges Harvie Wilkinson and Paul Niemeyer, both Reagan appointees, ruled in favor of the administration while Obama appointee, Judge Pamela Harris, voted to deny the motion.

The three-judge panel ruled that Trump would likely win out on the argument that he has the legal authority to decide what the definition is of a person considered a “public charge.” The policy considers anyone who has received government aid for more than 12 months in a three-year period dependent on government benefits and, therefore, a public charge.

“We find that the history of the use of ‘public charge’ in federal immigration law demonstrates that ‘public charge’ does not have a fixed, unambiguous meaning,” Judge Jay Bybee wrote, joined by Judge Sandra Ikuta – both appointed by President George W. Bush – in the Ninth Circuit ruling last week.

“Rather, the phrase is subject to multiple interpretations, it in fact has been interpreted differently, and the Executive Branch has been afforded the discretion to interpret it,” Bybee continued. “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.”

Frieda Powers

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