President Donald Trump issued a proclamation that requires all immigrants to the United States to have health insurance. The proclamation, which is set to take effect Nov. 3, details that the government will only accept visa petitions from abroad by applicants who can prove they will be able to secure health insurance within a month of their entry into the United States. Those who can’t prove that outright, must demonstrate they have enough money to pay “reasonably foreseeable medical costs.” What “reasonably foreseeable” means isn’t quite clear as it isn’t defined in the proclamation. “The entry into the United States as immigrants of aliens who will financially burden the United States health care system is hereby suspended,” reads the proclamation.
The document takes pains to emphasize that the measure is about costs. “While our healthcare system grapples with the challenges caused by uncompensated care, the United States Government is making the problem worse by admitting thousands of aliens who have not demonstrated any ability to pay for their healthcare costs,” notes the proclamation. “Immigrants who enter this country should not further saddle our healthcare system, and subsequently American taxpayers, with higher costs.”
The proclamation includes several exemptions to the rules, including refugees, asylum seekers, and unaccompanied minors, among others. Yet there seems to be little doubt the measure would limit legal immigration, particularly from poorer countries. Assuming it survives the expected legal challenges, of course. Immigrant rights groups were quick to blast the measure, characterizing it as racist. “This is another economic and racist attack on a community who deserves healthcare in the first place,” United We Dream, an immigrant advocacy group, wrote on Twitter.
The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services noted that it’s hypocritical for an administration that spends so much money detaining refugees to claim it cares about costs. “Tonight this government has 52,000+ people locked up in immigration detention centers. This can cost up to $775 a night per person,” RAICES tweeted. “Yet these haters want you to believe immigrants are taking tax dollars.”
Some were quick to point out that the proclamation seemed to have been written quickly and leaves lots of unanswered questions. “What does foreseeable medical expenses mean? How much money is that? How do you prove that you’re going to get health insurance in the future? It’s silent on all these things. There’s no particular form that has been put out there for people to fill out,” said Doug Rand, a former Obama official who worked on immigration policy. Rand also noted that this was yet another example of how the Trump administration seems obsessed with “the erroneous notion that immigrants are zapping taxpayer resources.”
Democrats were also quick to criticize the measure. New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for example, characterized it as “Hypocrisy, xenophobia, and barbarism all in one policy.” Sen. Patty Murray of Washington noted that “it seems every day the Trump Administration reaches a new low of cruelty.”
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