On Saturday, U.S. District Judge Michael Simon in Portland, Oregon temporarily stopped the Trump administration from enacting a policy that would require visa-seeking immigrants to prove they could pay for health insurance in the United States or could cover “foreseeable” medical costs within 30 days of entering the country. If they couldn’t do those things? No visa.
As previously reported, this policy—which, similarly to Trump’s Muslim travel ban, was created by executive order—favors a certain kind of immigrant. A wealthy one. The policy details that immigrants couldn’t use subsidized health care, for example, Medicaid or the Affordable Care Act, in order to qualify. What would qualify? Unsubsidized individual plans, short-term plans, family coverage plans, and employer-sponsored plans.
The aforementioned “foreseeable” medical costs, by the way, is just as vague as it sounds. As reported by Vox, individual consular officers would evaluate visa requirements and from there, the State Department would decide on a case by case basis. That much wiggle room leaves a lot of room for discrimination.
When Trump issued the proclamation in October, he used anti-immigrant rhetoric, saying, “immigrants who enter this country should not further saddle our healthcare system, and subsequently American taxpayers, with higher costs.” Nothing welcomes the poor and hungry like the word “saddle” in terms of medical debt!
Most of those who would be impacted by this policy would be people coming to the U.S. to join family. In practice, it would be a new method of family separation. And, again, one that specifically targets low-income people. You might remember that earlier in 2019, the Trump administration changed regulations in order to deny green cards to immigrants who use—or could use— certain forms of public assistance. The courts have blocked that measure, but the pattern of barring low-income people is an obvious one.
The federal lawsuit was filed on Wednesday. The key argument was that Trump’s rule would bar close to two-thirds of all prospective legal immigrants. The ban would have gone into effect on Sunday, but the judge’s temporary restraining order blocks it for the next 28 days. Another hearing is scheduled for Nov. 22.
“We’re very grateful that the court recognized the need to block the health care ban immediately,” Justice Action Center senior litigator Esther Sung, who argued at the hearing on behalf of the plaintiffs, stated. “The ban would separate families and cut two-thirds of green-card-based immigration starting tonight, were the ban not stopped.”