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Trump’s health insurance rule for immigrants blocked by federal judge

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

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A federal judge has blocked President Trump’s attempt to restrict visas for immigrants who do not have health insurance.

U.S. District Judge Michael Simon in Portland, Ore., granted a preliminary injunction against the administration’s requirement for immigrants to prove they can pay for or will be able to acquire health insurance before they will be granted visas,  The Oregonian reported.

The preliminary injunction was issued to halt a proclamation signed by the president in October as a temporary block of the order granted earlier this month was about to expire. That directive required immigrants applying for visas to prove they could obtain health care coverage within 30 days of entering the U.S. so as to “not further saddle our healthcare system, and subsequently American taxpayers.”

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

A lawsuit was brought against the administration by seven U.S. citizens and a nonprofit organization to challenge the constitutionality of the order, set to take effect on December 1, and Simon’s injunction, which applies nationwide, suspends the ruling as the case moves through court.

The Obama-appointed judge agreed with the plaintiffs and ruled that the order would unlawfully target poor people who could not afford to get the insurance.

“The proclamation is anticipated to affect approximately 60 percent of all immigrant visa applicants,” Simon said in his written opinion. “The president offers no national security or foreign relations justification for this sweeping change in immigration law.”

“Instead, the President attempts to justify the Proclamation based on an asserted burden to the United States healthcare system and federal taxpayers,” he added.

“This decision is an important check on the Trump administration’s effort to rewrite our nation’s immigration and health care laws in violation of the boundaries set out in the Constitution,” Esther Sung, an attorney with the Justice Action Center, said, praising the court’s ruling, according to Fox News.

An attorney representing the plaintiffs declared that the rule of law “does not allow the President to rewrite our immigration laws this way.”

Nadia Dahab praised Simon’s decision for “protect(ing) our Nation’s immigrant families from suffering irreparable harm as a result of the President’s harmful and unlawful proclamation.”

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham responded to the order in a statement calling Simon’s decision a disregard of federal law which allows the president broad authority in imposing such restrictions.

“The relevant portion of the Immigration and Nationality Act provides: ‘Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or non-immigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate. And in a landmark decision last year, the Supreme Court recognized the President’s broad authority to so impose such restrictions,’” Grisham said in a statement.

“That broad authority formed the foundation of this most recent proclamation that was designed to protect the United States from the detrimental effects of uninsured immigrants. The district court’s decision enjoining the proclamation disregards the statute’s text, in violation of the Supreme Court’s decision,” she added. “We look forward to defending the President’s lawful action.”

U.S. Department of Justice lawyers have argued that Trump is trying “to avoid unnecessarily burdening the healthcare system.’’

“A preliminary injunction is not warranted or appropriate,’’ Justice Department attorney August Flentje said, noting that the proclamation would spur health care planning and ultimately reduce costs to hospitals which have to compensate for patients who have no insurance.

“New immigrants are three times more likely to lack health coverage than others who have been here longer,’’ he said. “The solution follows naturally to have planning for health care insurance once you arrive on our shores.’’

“In total, uncompensated care costs — the overall measure of unreimbursed services that hospitals give their patients — have exceeded $35 billion in each of the last 10 years. These costs amount to approximately $7 million on average for each hospital in the United States, and can drive hospitals into insolvency,” Trump’s October proclamation, which was directed only at incoming immigrants seeking visas, not those already in the U.S., read.

“The United States has a long history of welcoming immigrants who come lawfully in search of brighter futures,” the order continued. “We must continue that tradition while also addressing the challenges facing our healthcare system, including protecting both it and the American taxpayer from the burdens of uncompensated care.”

Frieda Powers

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