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Trump Will Block Visa Applicants Who Cannot Prove They Can Get Health Insurance

The move appears to be the latest front in the administration’s extensive efforts to restrict immigration to the US.

Last updated on October 4, 2019, at 9:46 p.m. ET

Posted on October 4, 2019, at 8:51 p.m. ET

Andrew Caballero-reynolds / Getty Images

President Donald Trump invoked broad executive powers Friday, issuing a proclamation to block the entry of immigrants applying for visas who cannot prove that they will be able to obtain health insurance within 30 days of entering the United States.

Trump’s order takes effect Nov. 3 and applies to those who apply for immigrant visas abroad and do not have health insurance set up within a month after their entry or the financial means to pay for medical costs.

The move appears to be the latest front in the administration’s extensive efforts to restrict immigration. Trump’s proclamation cites the same provision of law he used in the 2017 travel ban to block people from coming into the country and a later ban on asylum-seekers who crossed into the country without authorization. It will apply to US citizens' foreign national spouses who want to live in the country.

“There has not been a use of the suspension of entry power in this way,” said Pratheepan Gulasekaram, a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law, referring to Trump’s use of the powers denying entry. “This is shocking.”

In his proclamation, Trump said the move would protect taxpayers from the costs of health care associated with some immigrants.

“We must continue that tradition while also addressing the challenges facing our healthcare system, including protecting both it and the American taxpayer from the burdens of uncompensated care,” Trump wrote in the proclamation. “Continuing to allow entry into the United States of certain immigrants who lack health insurance or the demonstrated ability to pay for their healthcare would be detrimental to these interests.”

The proclamation comes after the Trump administration issued a rule to deny permanent residency to immigrants in the US who immigration officials believe would not be able to support themselves financially. The State Department made changes in its policy manual to screen those applying for entry from abroad for being potential “public charges.”

“It is going to, without a single act of Congress, have another big effect on the population we are going to see in the future,” said Ur Jaddou, a former Department of Homeland Security attorney and official in the Obama administration.

Jaddou said the proclamation would work in hand with the State Department policy and restrict immigration to wealthier immigrants.

“It's like two concentric circles. They partially join. While some people without insurance will be barred from entering under public charge, not everyone will,” she said. “So this proclamation covers those who wouldn't be barred by [the] public charge rule.”

A health insurance executive expressed similar concerns.

"While lawful immigrants qualify for [Affordable Care Act] subsidies, they'll be stuck in a catch-22 because subsidized coverage does not qualify as insurance under the proclamation," said Larry Levitt, executive vice president for Health Policy at Kaiser Family Foundation.

Other former Obama administration officials said the proclamation would cause uneasiness among citizens and immigrants alike.

“This new attempt at an immigration ban is as shameless as it is stunning,” said Doug Rand, a former Obama White House official and cofounder of Boundless Immigration. “It will be chaotic to implement and guaranteed to separate U.S. citizens from their legal immigrant spouses and other close relatives. Was this drafted over lunch today in a desperate effort to change the news cycle?”

The proclamation will not impact refugees, asylees, children of US citizens abroad, those who already have been issued immigrant visas, and those who helped the US government in Afghanistan.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo may come up with procedures for consular officers in US embassies abroad to implement the proclamation, Trump wrote. The president also directed Pompeo to report on the necessity of the proclamation moving forward and whether adjustments would be needed.

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