Trump order denies visas to immigrants who can’t pay for health care

Washington — In its latest crackdown on legal immigration, the Trump administration announced Friday it is planning to reject visa applications from immigrants the government determines will not be able to pay for health insurance or cover health care costs in the U.S. The new requirement is set to go into effect November 3.

In a late-night proclamation signed by President Trump, the White House said the government will only accept immigrant visa petitions made abroad if the applicants demonstrate that they will have the ability to secure health insurance within a month of their arrival in the U.S. If that’s not possible, then petitioners would need to prove they have the financial resources to pay “reasonably foreseeable medical costs” — a standard not defined in the order.

The order alleges U.S. hospitals and health care providers are not being reimbursed for treating those who are uninsured. “The costs associated with this care are passed on to the American people in the form of higher taxes, higher premiums, and higher fees for medical services,” the order claims.

According to the order, the new requirement will not apply to people who already hold immigrant visas, asylum seekers, refugees, children of U.S. citizens living overseas or holders of special visas for Iraqi and Afghan nationals who helped U.S. forces in those countries.

“The administration is on-the-record wanting to cut legal immigration, and particularly wanting to cut legal immigration of lower-skilled, lower-paid immigrants who are probably less likely to have health insurance coverage,” said Randy Capps, director of U.S. programs research at the nonpartisan think tank the Migration Policy Institute.

Earlier in the summer, the administration rolled out the final version of a “public charge” regulation, which would make it easier for the government to deny green cards and temporary visas for legal immigrants who use public benefits like food stamps and government-subsidized housing.

Capps told CBS News that Friday’s proclamation will go “much further” than the public charge rule in terms of health-based restrictions on people seeking to immigrate to the U.S. The administration is hoping to accomplish this, he added, by rolling out an abrupt executive order that will not be subject to feedback prior to implementation — unlike the public charge rule, which is expected to take effect later this month.

“Without any public comment or regulatory process at all, (the president) is just going to put that out there,” Capp said. He said the lack of a rule-making process for the change might become a liability in court for the administration.

Capps said the proclamation does not outline a concrete path for visa petitioners to prove they will either obtain health insurance or cover all medical costs in the U.S.

The order instructed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to establish “standards and procedures” for U.S. consular offices to determine whether applicants satisfy the new requirements. The State Department did not immediately respond to questions regarding what — if any — steps the agency is taking to comply with the proclamation.

Immigration advocates were quick to denounce the announcement, saying it represents yet another effort by the Trump administration to penalize low-income immigrants.

“The Trump administration today launched two more shameless attacks on low-income people and immigrants, by proposing dramatic cuts to life-saving food stamps and seeking to prevent immigrants lacking access to health insurance — of which the administration works constantly to deprive them —from entering the country on immigrant visas,” Javier Valdés, co-director of the immigrant advocacy group Make the Road New York, said in a statement.

In his order, Mr. Trump invoked the same provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act that his administration used to announce the travel ban against predominately Muslim countries, as well as a sweeping asylum restriction on migrants who crossed the border illegally between ports of entry.

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