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Sotomayor’s Scathing ‘Public Charge’ Dissent Lights Up Twitter

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 2/23/2020 Hailey Waller
Sonia Sotomayor wearing glasses and looking at the camera © Photographer: Pool/Getty Images Sonia Sotomayor

(Bloomberg) -- Justice Sonia Sotomayor lit up Twitter after issuing a dissent against the Supreme Court’s 5-4 vote to allow an immigrant wealth test -- designed to weed out green card applicants deemed likely to need public assistance -- to go into effect.

The Illinois rule says immigrants who are “likely at any time to become a public charge” because they may in the future need benefits such as food stamps, Medicaid or housing assistance may be turned away. It followed a ruling on Jan. 27 that was already poised to take effect in 49 states.

Sotomayor, who joined fellow liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan in the minority, argued that cases have repeatedly been rushed to the Supreme Court without being “ventilated fully in the lower courts.”

She went as far as to say that the practice is “putting a thumb on the scale in favor” of the party that won a stay -- a pointed dig at the Trump administration and her conservative colleagues.

“Claiming one emergency after another, the Government has recently sought stays in an unprecedented number of cases, demanding immediate attention and consuming limited court resources in each,” Sotomayor wrote. “And with each successive application, of course, its cries of urgency ring increasingly hollow.”

Death Penalty

Sotomayor comments drew renewed calls from Democrats to “flip the Senate” in November, and thus have more control over the confirmation of Supreme Court justices. Others praised the decision as a victory for the policies of President Donald Trump.

Among those commenting were Sister Helen Prejean, the Roman Catholic nun and advocate for abolition of the death penalty portrayed by Susan Sarandon in the 1995 film “Dead Man Walking.”

The court, said Prejean, has been quick to grant stays requested by the Justice Department, but not when death-row prisoners request the same -- an issue central to Sotomayor’s dissent.

“I fear that this disparity in treatment erodes the fair and balanced decision-making process that this court must strive to protect,” Sotomayor wrote.

Andrew Romanoff, who’s running for the U.S. Senate from Colorado as a Democrat, said Sotomayor was pushing back on a top court that’s “become unbalanced.” And presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren tweeted that she would “roll back” the public-charge policy if elected.

“Millions of children could lose their health care coverage because of the Trump administration’s cruel public charge rule,” Warren said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Hailey Waller in New York at hwaller@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: James Ludden at jludden@bloomberg.net, Ros Krasny, Matthew G. Miller

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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