In August, President Donald Trump’s administration issued a regulatory reform that, according to The Hill, “links immigrants’ legal status to their use of public benefits.” Essentially, the policy considers any immigrant who is dependent on government aid like food stamps for more than 12 months in a 36-month period to be a “public charge” — a description that could adversely affect their ability to obtain a green card and remain in the U.S.
The move was soon challenged in court, with liberal judges in four separate districts issuing nationwide injunctions against the measure. But in a partial victory for Trump (and taxpayers) on Thursday, the three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted two of those four injunctions, The Hill reports.
Unfortunately, due to the fact that the other two nationwide injunctions remain unaffected by the ruling, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is still blocked from putting the policy into effect.
Appeals court rules in Trump’s favor
The Ninth Circuit, led by George W. Bush appointee Jay Bybee, recognized in its 2–1 decision Thursday that the “public charge” term dates back to 1882, and since then, its meaning has been revised several times — most recently, by former President Bill Clinton in 1999. And according to the court, it is well within the purview of the current administration to make further revisions to how the law is enforced and implemented.
Judge Bybee explained that it’s not the place of the courts to render judgment on otherwise typical administrative changes; instead, he says, it’s up to Congress to make explicit changes to the law if it believes the administration has gone too far.
The judge went on to predict that the administration will likely prevail on the merits of the case once all of the appeals have run their course.
“An agency has broad discretion to administer the programs entrusted to it by Congress. We are not the proper foil to this or any other administration as it crafts our immigration policies,” Bybee wrote in the Thursday ruling. “By constitutional design, the branch that is qualified to establish immigration policy and check any excesses in the implementation of that policy is Congress.”
White House applauds ruling
For its part, the White House applauded the ruling from the Ninth Circuit, which overturned injunctions issued by district judges in California and Washington state, even as it decried the fact that two other injunctions — issued by judges in Maryland and New York — still remain in effect.
“The Ninth Circuit has rightly recognized the [a]dministration’s authority to adopt an interpretation of the ‘public charge’ restriction more faithful to and consistent with the scope of the statute passed by Congress,” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement. “Unfortunately, as a practical matter, the ruling has accomplished nothing to vindicate the rule of law due to the destructive practice of individual district judges taking over national policy issues by issuing nationwide injunctions.”
She went on: “In practical effect, nationwide injunctions give any district judge the power to tell a panel of a [f]ederal court of appeals that its ruling does not matter and that it cannot affect the actual implementation of the law. Such subversions of the rule of law must come to an end.”
It is indeed unfortunate that nationwide injunctions issued by two district judges can, in effect, overrule a decision from a higher-ranking appeals court. As things stand now, unless higher courts step in and overturn the remaining injunctions, nothing will change.
This is further evidence that the practice of activist judges overstepping their jurisdictional bounds to impose rulings nationwide needs to be addressed. As Grisham said, it has gone on for far too long.