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Labour leader poses 'dangerous' threat to free press

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DOJ to defend law barring benefits to Puerto Rico, which Biden calls ‘inconsistent’ with his values

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President Joe Biden on Monday announced the Department of Justice will continue to defend a law that bars residents of Puerto Rico from obtaining federal benefits for low income disabled people even though he believes the “provision is inconsistent with my Administration’s policies and values.”

The president issued the statement ahead of a brief that lawyers for the DOJ planned to file with the U.S. Supreme Court defending a provision in the Social Security Act that stops Puerto Rico residents from collecting Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, benefits. The provision is being challenged in the case of the United States v. Jose Luis Vaello-Madero.

“As I have stated, I believe that Puerto Rico residents should be able to receive SSI benefits, just like their fellow Americans in all 50 states and Washington D.C.,” Biden said in a statement.

“However, the Department of Justice has a longstanding practice of defending the constitutionality of federal statutes, regardless of policy preferences. This practice is critical to the Department’s mission of preserving the rule of law. Consistent with this important practice, the Department is defending the constitutionality of the Social Security Act provision in this case,” he added.

The president urged Congress to amend the Social Security Act to make the benefits available in Puerto Rico, and also called for legislators to eliminate Medicaid funding caps for the U.S. territory.

“As I’ve said before, there can be no second-class citizens in the United States of America. My Administration will work with members of Congress to make these legislative fixes a reality,” Biden said.

Hermann Ferré, a lawyer for Vaello-Madero, told NBC News that, “While we are gratified the president has called attention to the importance of the case, we don’t see how it’s possible to defend a statutory scheme that, as the president rightly acknowledges, treats Puerto Rico residents as ‘second-class citizens.’ Such treatment is, by definition, unconstitutional under equal protection principles.”

Ferré’s client is a U.S. citizen with health problems who started receiving SSI benefits when he was living in New York in 2012, but lost his eligibility when he moved to Puerto Rico a year later. The government sued to get the payments back after it discovered he’d moved, court filings show.

Vaello-Madero’s lawyers contended that the provision violated the equal-protection component of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, and two courts have agreed, leading the then-Trump administration to appeal to the Supreme Court.

In its court filings, the government has argued that the provision is constitutional and that Congress already “provides federal assistance to needy aged, blind, and disabled individuals in Puerto Rico through a different program — Aid to the Aged, Blind, and Disabled (AABD).” It said “AABD provides more local control but less federal funding than SSI.”

The high court agreed in March to hear the case.

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Scottish independence polls: Will Scotland vote to leave the UK? Latest polls and odds

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SCOTTISH independence has become a highly divisive issue pitting two of the most popular British politicians against one another, but what do the latest polls and odds reveal?

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Supreme Court unanimously rules against immigrants with temporary status

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WASHINGTON — A unanimous Supreme Court ruled Monday that thousands of people living in the U.S. for humanitarian reasons are ineligible to apply to become permanent residents.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court that federal immigration law prohibits people who entered the country illegally and now have Temporary Protected Status from seeking “green cards” to remain in the country permanently.

The designation applies to people who come from countries ravaged by war or disaster. It protects them from deportation and allows them to work legally. There are 400,000 people from 12 countries with TPS status.

The outcome in a case involving a couple from El Salvador who have been in the U.S. since the early 1990s turned on whether people who entered the country illegally and were given humanitarian protections were ever “admitted” into the United States under immigration law.

Kagan wrote that they were not. “The TPS program gives foreign nationals nonimmigrant status, but it does not admit them. So the conferral of TPS does not make an unlawful entrant…eligible” for a green card, she wrote.

The House of Representatives already has passed legislation that would make it possible for TPS recipients to become permanent residents, Kagan noted. The bill faces uncertain prospects in the Senate.

The case pitted the Biden administration against immigrant groups that argued many people who came to the U.S. for humanitarian reasons have lived in the country for many years, given birth to American citizens and put down roots in the U.S.

In 2001, the U.S. gave Salvadoran migrants legal protection to remain in the U.S. after a series of earthquakes in their home country.

People from 11 other countries are similarly protected. They are: Haiti, Honduras, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen.

Monday’s decision does not affect immigrants with TPS who initially entered the U.S. legally and then, say, overstayed their visa, Kagan noted. Because those people were legally admitted to the country and later were given humanitarian protections, they can seek to become permanent residents.

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