The Department of Homeland Security announced in August that it would expand the definition of "public charge", to be applied to people whose immigration to the USA could be denied because of a concern that they would primarily depend on the government for their income. It was immediately met with opposition from advocates and several states, which argued that the changes would penalize immigrants who rely on temporary assistance from the government and impose costs on the states.
The justices in a 5-4 vote along ideological lines said they would let the controversial immigration rules go forward even as lower courts wrestle with multiple legal challenges against them. The action was announced even as Roberts sat as the presiding officer in Trump's impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate. The court lifted a nationwide injunction imposed by a district judge in NY.
The public charge rule remains frozen only in IL, where a federal appeals courts has upheld a state-wide injunction.
This story is breaking and will be updated.
More than 100 companies including Twitter, Microsoft and LinkedIn filed an amicus brief on January 16, saying that Trump's public charge rule "creates substantial, unprecedented, and unnecessary obstacles for individuals seeking to come to the United States or, once here, to adjust their immigration status".
At issue is which immigrants will be granted legal permanent residency, known as a "green card".
Roughly 544,000 people apply for green cards annually.
Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch, a Trump appointee who voted to lift the injunction, issued an opinion criticizing lower courts' "increasingly common" use of nationwide injunctions to halt government policies.
Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, previously said that the rule was implemented because the administration wanted to "see people coming to this country who are self-sufficient". That, it so happens, is an opinion shared by Attorney General William Barr and former AG Jeff Sessions.
The administration can now enforce the rule nationwide except in IL, where a lower court has blocked its implementation.
There is no defensible argument that halting the public charge rule is causing irreperable harm to the government.
"By their nature, universal injunctions tend to force judges to make hasty, high-stakes and poorly informed decisions", wrote Gorsuch, joined by Thomas. Gorsuch urged the court to confront the issue. Federal legislators at the time wanted to ensure that immigrants would be able to take care of themselves and not end up with a public office.
"Public donation" has been defined in recent years as a person who is dependent on cash support programs.
The Trump administration proposed to broaden the definition to include non-cash benefits, such as Medicaid, supplemental nutrition, and federal housing assistance.
It is hard to know exactly how many people would be affected by the settlement, as it is largely subject to the discretion of the officer who will take into account that someone is likely to become a public office.
In its ruling, the Court notes that it would be "delusional" for anyone to think this decision "suffices to remedy the problem".