Federal Judge Blocks Trump's Health Insurance Requirements For Immigrants Seeking Visas

A federal judge in Oregon on Saturday placed a temporary hold on President Donald Trump's rule that would require immigrants to prove they have health insurance, or the ability to pay medical bills, before they can attain visas.

U.S. District Judge Michael Simon issued a temporary restraining order that will prevent the Trump administration's rule, which was set to take effect Sunday.

A lawsuit was filed Wednesday by seven American citizens and a nonprofit group who all contended the rule would prevent about two-thirds of prospective legal immigrants, the Associated Press reported. The lawsuit furthermore states the Trump rule could potentially eliminate or reduce the amount of immigrants with family-sponsored visas.

Esther Sung, a senior litigator for the Justice Action Center who argued on behalf of the plaintiffs, said the administration's rule would also separate immigrant families.

"We're very grateful that the court recognized the need to block the health care ban immediately," Sung said at Saturday's hearing in Portland. "The ban would separate families and cut two-thirds of green-card-based immigration starting tonight, were the ban not stopped."

President Donald Trump signed the proclamation in October for the rule that pertains to people who are already abroad and seeking visas, and not those who are already in the country. The rule does not apply to refugees, children, asylum seekers or those who are lawful permanent residents already.

The proclamation goes on to say that immigrants seeking would be prohibited from entering the United States unless they can show they would have health insurance—or have the financial well-being to cover medical costs—within 30 days of entering the country.

Under the rule, an immigrant cannot get a visa if they are covered by subsidies from the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as those are paid for by the federal government. Medicaid does not count either.

The rule states that insurance must be purchased individually or provided by an employer. The insurance can be either short-term or catastrophic as well.

When the proclamation was signed, the White House said it was because non-citizens reaped so many benefits of "generous health programs" while being a problem of "uncompensated health care costs."

Other factors behind the rule was Trump's promise to limit the great influx of immigrants by using a merit-based system.

The Migration Policy Institute, states that 57 percent of U.S. immigrants had private health insurance in 2017, not far beneath the 69 percent of U.S.-born citizens who had private insurance. The institute also said the uninsured rate of illegal immigrants dropped sharply after the implementation of ACA—aka Obamacare— from 2013-17.

Jesse Bless, the director of federal litigation for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the federal judge's ruling Saturday prevented "irreparable harm."

"Countless thousands across the country can breathe a sigh of relief today because the court recognized the urgent and irreparable harm that would have been inflicted," Bless said.

A U.S. Border Patrol agent counts cash dollars brought by an Ecuadorian immigrant after she and her daughter crossed the Rio Grande from Mexico on September 10, 2019 near Los Ebanos, Texas. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images