Attorneys Spar Over Trump’s Anti-Immigration Proclamation

President Donald Trump speaks during an event on healthcare prices in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Nov. 15, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – President Trump’s proclamation barring the entry of immigrants who don’t have health care is an illegal abuse of presidential authority and a federal judge should prevent it from taking effect at the end of the month, attorneys argued Friday.

On Oct. 4, Trump issued the a proclamation that said government officials shouldn’t approve immigrant visas for immigrants unless applicants had health insurance, plans to acquire it within 30 days of entry into the United States, or the money to cover doctor bills out of pocket.

The proclamation was scheduled to take effect Nov. 3. But the Latino Network and seven people who said their families would be harmed sued the federal government in October. In the lawsuit, lawyers from the Innovation Law Lab called Trump’s proclamation a “plainly illegal” effort that seeks to impose “a draconian effect on the immigration system through presidential fiat.”

Furthermore, its requirements are so impractical that it would result in keeping two-thirds of otherwise legal immigrants out of the country, according to the lawsuit.

Lawyers behind the suit secured a temporary restraining order from U.S. District Judge Michael Simon that stopped it from taking effect. That reprieve ends in eight days. Judge Simon said in a hearing Friday that he would rule before then on the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction, which would prevent the plan’s implementation until the main issues in the lawsuit are resolved.

At Friday’s hearing, U.S. Attorney August Flentje brushed off claims that the proclamation would irreparably harm the lives of the people it affects, saying it was easy to obtain travelers’ or short-term health insurance and that if a prospective immigrant was denied entry because of the proclamation, they could simply try again later.

“Denial of a visa is something that can be looked at again,” Flentje told Judge Simon. “Within a year, the applicant can come back and satisfy the proclamation. This is a presidential invocation of authority given by Congress. This is where the authority of the president is the highest.”

But court records show the difficulty of such rehearings. In declarations, the seven individual plaintiffs describe years-long battles to keep their families together while observing immigration law. Each is a U.S. citizen who has or plans to sponsor someone who is not – either their parents or their spouse. Each plaintiff’s struggle to reunite their family has been derailed because their spouse would be barred from entry under Trump’s proclamation.

Flentje compared the situation to other immigration cases, where past presidents had issued proclamations that were the result of a complex analysis weighing which action would cause the least harm to immigrants who wanted to come to the United States.

In one such case, Flentje said, “the president was using a judgment to balance harms to intending immigrants. I think that’s what’s happening here.”

But all three individual plaintiffs said in court documents that they believe animus – not an attempt to prevent harm – is the motivator behind the proclamation.

“I am of Hispanic heritage,” one declaration says. “I believe that the purpose of the Proclamation is meant to prevent people like me and my family from emigrating to the United States and reuniting with family. The President’s statements and views behind this Proclamation make me feel targeted and has caused me anxiety. This is a time in which my husband and I should be celebrating our marriage and the birth of our daughter but instead we are being forced to live apart. Our lives are on hold.”

A ruling on the preliminary injunction is expected within a week.

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