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The Trump administration has announced that visa applications of those who cannot prove they can cover health costs will be rejected.
The news came on Friday in the president’s latest crackdown on legal immigration into the United States. The new requirement will go into effect on November 3.
The government has said it will accept immigrant visa petitions made abroad only if applicants can demonstrate the ability to secure health insurance a month before their move.
If this isn’t possible, applicants will have the opportunity to prove they can afford “reasonably foreseeable medical costs” which are not defined in the order.
The late-night proclamation signed by Mr. Trump claimed that US healthcare providers and hospitals are not being reimbursed for treating the uninsured.
It states, “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 added that the new requirement will not be applicable to those who already hold an immigrant visa, asylum seekers, children of American citizens living overseas, or refugees.
Special visa holders for Iraqi and Afghan nationals who helped the US forces in those countries will also be exempt.
It has already been condemned by immigration advocates, who were quick to argue that Trump intends to further punish low-income immigrants.
This unexpected announcement comes after President Trump in January called for drastic measures against surprise medical bills that patients could not afford.
Doug Rand, a former White House official under President Obama, told CBS News, “This administration is just fixated on the erroneous notion that immigrants are zapping taxpayer resources.
“So, they are kind of looking under every rock they possibly can for any way to exclude people who aren’t wealthy.”
Rand co-founded the organization Boundless Immigration after leaving the Obama administration, which sets applicants up with an immigration lawyer to file online and save thousands in fees.
He said that the new restriction will impact many of the approximately half-million people who apply for a US immigration visa each year.
It comes after news that the Trump administration was seeking public disclosure of negotiated hospital rates with insurance companies.
The proclamation does not outline how applicants can successfully prove they can afford health insurance or cover medical costs.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been ordered to establish “standards and procedures” which will allow the government to make a decision on whether an applicant should be allowed to enter the US.
The final version of a “public charge” regulation was rolled out in the summer, which made it easier for the government to deny visas to those who use public benefits such as government-subsidized housing and food stamps.
Randy Capps, director of U.S. programs research at the nonpartisan think tank the Migration Policy Institute, told CBS that the new restriction will go much further.
He said, “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.”
He added that the lack of a rule-making process could become a liability for the Trump administration in court.
Lawmakers in both chambers of Congress are working towards lowering healthcare costs for people who are already insured, so there is still some hope for immigrants who manage to pay for healthcare insurance.
Co-director of the immigrant advocacy group Make the Road New York Javier Valdés, and city council member Carlos Menchaca have also spoken out against the proclamation.
In a statement, they said: “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.”
Trump invoked the same provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act in this new travel restriction as he did in his travel ban against predominately Muslim countries in 2017.
This provision was also used to restrict entry to asylum seekers who cross the border illegally.
Both of the previous restrictions cited national security as a basis for restrictions.
Rand added: “Here, there’s not even a gesture at national security. It’s just saying ‘well, it’s bad for the health care system when people are uninsured.’”