A federal judge in Oregon has temporarily blocked President Trump’s order to deny visas to immigrants without health insurance.
On October 4, 2019, a Presidential Proclamation suspended entry of immigrants into the US without approved health coverage or without the ability to pay for foreseeable medical issues within 30 days of entering the country.
The new rule would require anyone looking to move to the US to enrol in private insurance (such as a dependent on a family member’s health plan) or have the financial means to cover medical costs.
Immigrants without health insurance or who are unable to able to prove their financial ability to pay for medical care could be considered “financial burdens” to the US health care system and denied a visa, including those with ties to family members in the US.
The Proclamation stops short of defining the threshold for the new standard of affordability but subsidized plans purchased on the Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges would no longer count as an eligible form of insurance. Low-income immigrants receiving premium subsidies to purchase health care would be disqualified from living in the country legally.
The new rule was expected to affect potentially hundreds of thousands of immigrant visa applicants, as the latest effort by President Trump to restrict immigrants’ ability to enter the US.
Non-citizen children of US citizens or refugees and immigrants who have won asylum would however be exempt from the new requirement.
Legal challenge ahead
The Proclamation was quickly met by a legal challenge brought by a coalition of civil rights organizations who condemned the new rule as “arbitrary, an ‘abuse of discretion’ and discriminatory”.
On November 3, 2019, the US District Court in Portland, Oregon, in Doe v Trump, issued a 28-day temporary restraining order (TRO) just before the Proclamation took effect.
Judge Michael H. Simon held there would be irreparable harm if the Proclamation took effect, and ruled to freeze the order until there had been a full determination of the merits.
The court will reconsider the matter later this month to determine whether to issue an injunction to continue to block the Proclamation while the case proceeds.