Despite repeated promises to dismantle Obamacare and making no efforts to ensure Americans can afford their own healthcare, President Donald Trump issued a proclamation on Friday that declared immigrants coming to the United States must prove they can pay for their own healthcare or will be covered by an approved health insurance plan within 30 days of arriving in the country or have the financial ability to “pay for reasonably foreseeable medical costs.”
The proclamation states, “Immigrants who enter this country should not further saddle our healthcare system, and subsequently American taxpayers, with higher costs.”
While employer-sponsored and family coverage plans will count as qualifying insurance, Medicaid or plans covered with Affordable Care Act subsidies will not.
The only exceptions to this rule will be for children of US citizens, minors who are unaccompanied, permanent residents returning to the US from less than a year abroad, as well as “special immigrant visas” given to Iraqi and Afghan citizens who worked for the US government, plus their family members.
Trump justified this action by saying it will “protect the availability of health care benefits for Americans,” and that “taxpayers bear substantial cost” of paying medical expenses for those who are uninsured.
According to analysts, the proclamation is largely targeted toward “chain migration”—a form of migration that allows family members of immigrants to come to the US. Despite Trump bringing his in-laws to the country in exactly this way, he and White House advisor Stephen Miller have been trying to persuade Congress to reduce the number of these types of immigrants allowed into the country. This has all been part of an effort to give preference to wealthier (and whiter) skilled immigrants, rather than to immigrants from poorer areas in South and Central America.
Doug Rand, a former Obama White House official, told the Washington Post that the proclamation won’t affect immigrants claiming asylum at the border or immigrants currently in the US. But it will be a blow to family members of immigrants hoping to take advantage of family migration. The only exception is for children of immigrants, telling the Post it amounts to “a gigantic, sweeping change to the legal immigration system.”
“As a matter of policymaking, this is an incredibly flimsy document,” Rand said. “We have no idea what the process was and it just kind of happened at 7 o’clock on a Friday. Where did this come from? What was the process? Who was involved in this?”
The proclamation will go into effect on November 3. Immigrants who cannot provide proof they will be covered by insurance or can afford medical expenses will have their visas denied.
As immigration scholar Steve Yale-Loehr told the New York Times, “President Trump has failed to build a physical wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to deter illegal immigrants, but he has effectively built an invisible wall to keep out legal immigrants.”