Immigration law is constantly evolving, and each year the Supreme Court issues new decisions that change the face of immigration policy. This month we present to you a summary of what you need to know about the most recent immigration Supreme Court decisions. Consider it your cheat sheet!

On Thursday, June 30th, 2022, The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of the Biden administration on a controversial immigration policy. The ruling states the Supreme Court had the authority to reverse a trump-era initiative that requires asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while their cases are reviewed in U.S. Courts. The Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) were set by the trump administration. Trump enacted these protocols to curb the high influx of immigrants entering the U.S. during his presidency. The bigger story that not a lot of people are seeing is the fact that multiple political branches are unable to collaborate to provide sufficient facilities to detain noncitizens while they wait for their immigration proceedings. This will not be the last we hear of this ruling as politicians on different sides try to figure out the next move. This case will now return to district court where the Biden administration will attempt to terminate the protocols once and for all.

Besides the most recent ruling, on Monday, June 13th, 2022, The Supreme Court ruled against allowing immigrants detained for long periods while they are fighting deportation to be granted hearings to decide whether they may be released on bond as their cases move forward. This applies to noncitizens who reenter the U.S. after receiving order for removal and placed in withholding-only proceedings. During this week of June 13, the Supreme Court decided two immigration cases (involving bond hearings for noncitizens in immigration detention) and declined to decide a third (involving the Trump-era “public charge” policy for green card applicants).

One case decided is about a citizen of Mexico who has repeatedly entered the United States unlawfully, fleeing what they said was gang violence against their family. After they were arrested in 2018, an asylum officer made a preliminary finding that they had a reasonable fear of persecution if they were returned to Mexico. This individual was detained while waiting for an immigration judge to consider the request to halt their deportation. After four months without a hearing, the individual challenged the detention in federal court, saying that an immigration judge should decide whether they should be released while their case moved forward because the individual was neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community. Lower courts ruled in the individual’s favor. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit said that immigrants in similar positions were entitled to bond hearings after six months of detention. An immigration judge ordered the release. The federal government sought Supreme Court review, saying that the governing statute did not require bond hearings before immigration judges. A second case decided during the week, ruled on a related question, saying that detained immigrants could not band together in class actions to seek injunctions requiring periodic bond hearings.

Lastly, the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal brought by a group of Republican-led states seeking to intervene in a case challenging the Trump-era “public charge” immigration policy, a version of which the Biden administration has abandoned. The case did not center on the legality of the rule but instead on whether the Biden administration followed proper procedures when it set out to revoke the rule and dismiss pending legal challenges. The Trump-era policy, an expansion of the so-called “public charge” rule, made it more difficult for immigrants to obtain legal status if they use certain public benefits, such as Medicaid, food stamps, and housing vouchers. Upon taking office, however, President Joe Biden ordered a review of the prior administration’s rule and ultimately declined to defend it in court. In March 2022, the administration sought to dismiss the remaining pending challenges, leaving in place the nationwide injunction issued by the one federal judge. The administration removed the rule from the books and said it would ultimately issue a new regulatory definition of “public charge.” The justices took the case off its calendar.

The “public charge” provision dates back at least to the Immigration Act of 1882. Federal lawmakers at the time wanted to make sure that immigrants would be able to take care of themselves and not end up being a public burden. Under current regulations put in place in 1996, the term is defined as someone who is “primarily dependent” on government assistance, meaning it supplies more than half their income.

What does this mean for you?

If the Biden administration can successfully terminate the migrant Protection Protocols, this will allow all asylum noncitizens to wait for their immigration proceedings in the U.S. instead of over the border in Mexico. The case rulings will affect thousands of immigrants detained for many months while their cases are decided by immigration courts facing long backlogs. The court did not consider what the Constitution has to say about the extended detentions of immigrants, leaving that question for another day. In relation to the appeal made by the republicans about the public charge provision, any individual using public benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps, housing vouchers, etc., would be affected. This means that if the appeal were passed, all individuals using these public services would have a tougher time obtaining legal status. Thankfully, the Biden administration declined to defend the appeal in court. These public charges are assisting immigrating families coming to the U.S. from becoming burdens on the public. Individuals eligible for these public charges are considered as someone dependent on government assistance to provide for more than half their income.

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