Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is gearing up for Supreme Court arguments next month over a Trump-era policy on immigrants receiving welfare that was dropped early last year by the Biden administration.
The Trump administration introduced the “public charge” rule in 2019 and sought to expand the definition of public charge, restricting legal immigrants deemed likely to be reliant on welfare from receiving permanent residency or green cards.
Specifically, it defined a public charge as an immigrant who receives one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months within a 36-month period. The consideration would be made when someone on a temporary visa applied for a green card.
The Trump administration and Republican supporters said the rule protected taxpayers and prevented welfare programs from becoming stretched.
“The bottom line is, we know the public charge rule is a common-sense immigration policy that ensures our public emergency assistance programs are available when Americans need them the most,” Brnovich told Fox News in an interview.
While much of the attention during the Trump administration was on illegal immigration, this was one of a number of moves that the administration took on legal immigration, and it was just as controversial among immigrant advocates. Opponents of the rule said it was cruel and could prevent needy immigrants from getting help they need and warning that it could discourage them from getting help for their children.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement last year that the rule was “not in keeping with our nation’s values.”
“It penalized those who access health benefits and other government services available to them,” he said.
The rule was blocked by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals during the prior administration. By the time the Supreme Court agreed to take the case, the Biden administration was in office. Since it opposed the rule, it dropped the defense.
Subsequently, 11 Republican states, led by Arizona, have now sought to challenge that move, accusing the administration of an “unprecedented, coordinated and multi-court gambit.”
This lawsuit is not strictly about the policy, but the Biden administration’s abandoning of the defense. The GOP states are looking to take up the defense of the rule themselves.
Joining Arizona in the suit are Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia. Briefs were filed in the case last month, and oral arguments will be heard in February.
“I think this is a very important issue from a policy perspective and also really important because we’re essentially doing the job that the Biden administration won’t,” Brnovich told Fox.
Should the states succeed, the court is expected to then look at the merits of the policy itself. Having won a key election case in the Supreme Court in 2021 and with a conservative majority on the court, the states will likely be optimistic about their chances. But their claim was initially rejected by the court last year, and Brnovich is not making any predictions of the outcome.
“I learned a long time ago as a prosecutor not to predict what a court is going to do, but I do believe we are right on the law and right on the policy,” he said. “The public charge requirement is common-sense policy that reflects that while America is indeed the land of opportunity and a land of immigrants, it is not a welfare state.”
It is the latest legal battle from conservative states against the Biden administration on immigration. The Biden administration was forced to drop a planned 100-day moratorium on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deportations and is reinstating the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) due to legal challenges.
Brnovich tells Fox News he foresees a range of legal fights against administration policy in a number of areas to come.
“The Biden administration, or whoever is talking in the president’s earpiece, is intent on socializing our economy, nationalizing our elections, conceding control of our southern border to the cartels, and as a result of that myself and my colleagues are very busy not only being the tip of the sword but being the last line of defense when it comes to defending our liberties and constitutional rights,” he said.