Judge Blocks Trump Requirement of Health Care for Would-Be Immigrants

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – President Donald Trump’s attempt to bar immigrants without health insurance from entering the United States won’t take effect yet, after a federal judge issued a nationwide preliminary injunction on Tuesday.

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Trump issued a presidential proclamation Oct. 4 telling government officials not to OK immigrant visas unless the applicants had approved health insurance or the money to cover doctor bills out of pocket. He claimed the plan would prevent the government from covering the “burden” of immigrant health care.

But seven people who have or plan to sponsor family members to move to the United States sued, saying they either cannot afford or access health insurance, in one case due to preexisting health conditions. Their lawsuit called the proclamation a “plainly illegal” effort that seeks to impose “a draconian effect on the immigration system through presidential fiat.”

They sought to prevent the proclamation from taking effect and on Tuesday they succeeded, at least initially. U.S. District Judge Michael Simon ruled the proclamation is inconsistent with the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 because it would result in family separations, which Congress wanted to guard against when it established the visa system. Additional goals of the system were bringing in immigrants with useful skills, protecting refugees and promoting diversity, Simon noted.

“In addition, and independently, the proclamation was not issued under any properly delegated authority,” Simon wrote. “It is, therefore, the duty of the court in this case to preliminarily enjoin enforcement of that proclamation.”

Trump’s proclamation would also reinstate an immigration bar of “paupers,” which was outlawed in a 1990 amendment to the Immigration Nationality Act, Simon wrote. He questioned the basis of Trump’s proclamation – that uninsured immigrants cost the U.S. $35 billion per year – and said that the government did not provide any data to support such a claim.

“The Proclamation links the burden of ‘uncompensated care costs’ to legal immigrants with a single unsourced sentence: ‘data show that lawful immigrants are about three times more likely than U.S. citizens to lack health insurance,’” Simon wrote. “Based on this, the President concluded that allowing certain otherwise qualified legal immigrants into the United States would ‘saddle’ the U.S. healthcare system and the American taxpayer with increases costs.”

Simon cited an amicus brief filed by 21 states, the District of Columbia and New York City, which notes that immigrants pay more than $405.4 billion in taxes each year, that the proclamation increased fear and anxiety among immigrants, and that it would likely increase the cost of covering uninsured immigrants.

“Weighing all the interests, the balance of the equities and the public interest tips sharply in favor of Plaintiffs, and supports preserving the status quo until the Court renders its decision on the merits,” Simon wrote.

The judge said that the plaintiffs were likely to prevail in the case because Trump’s proclamation may have overstepped his authority. Based on previous cases, according to Simon, Congress had delegated authority to the president to act on immigration when it involves foreign relations or national security, especially in emergencies. But in this instance, Trump used his proclamation to engage in domestic policy-making, Simon wrote.

The proclamation illegally “bars entry from an entire class of immigrants,” with no end in sight, Simon said. 

That distinguishes it from Trump’s 2017 travel ban, which “involved specific deficiencies in a handful of country’s vetting systems that triggered that proclamation – if those deficiencies all were cured, that proclamation would no longer be needed,” Simon wrote.

The current proclamation would have no specific ending point, Simon said, in part because it would do nothing to solve the problem it is purportedly based on.

“Here, the identified ‘inadequacies and risks’ are a massive, estimated $35 billion-per-year domestic systemic health care problem,” the judge wrote.

Immigration advocates applauded the ruling.

“The egregiousness of the proclamation demanded urgent action to save so many affected immigrants and their loved ones,” said Jesse Bless, director of federal litigation for the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “We are tremendously grateful that our efforts have stopped the President from harming so many immigrant families.”

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