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Federal judge blocks administration from denying immigrants visas unless they can prove access to health insurance

A federal judge in Oregon has blocked the Trump administration from denying immigrants visas unless they can prove they will have health insurance.

Judge Michael Simon ruled that “the President’s Proclamation requiring legal immigrants to show proof of health insurance before being issued a visa by the State Department is inconsistent with the INA,” referring to the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Simon had previously temporarily barred the administration from implementing the policy, and has now granted a nationwide preliminary injunction pending resolution of the case.

The policy would require that visa applicants verify they would be covered by approved health insurance within 30 days of entry into the US or could “pay for reasonably foreseeable medical costs” — a potential obstacle for immigrants, especially if they do not have the financial means. Accepted health insurance includes employer-sponsored and family coverage plans, unsubsidized individual health plans, and short-term plans — but not Medicaid or Affordable Care Act subsidies.

Simon’s order comes in a lawsuit filed by a group of US citizens who assert that the policy effectively serves as a new form of “family separation.” In banning hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the United States, they argue, the rule could result in separating families who are immigrating via family-sponsored visas.

Esther Sung, a senior litigator at the Justice Action Center representing plaintiffs in the case, said in a statement that she was “so grateful for this court ruling that will keep families together and allow other families to reunite.”

“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,” she added.

Nadia Dahab, a senior staff attorney at Innovation Law Lab also representing plaintiffs, praised the decision for “protect(ing) our Nation’s immigrant families from suffering irreparable harm as a result of the President’s harmful and unlawful proclamation,” adding in a statement that the rule of law “does not allow the President to rewrite our immigration laws this way.”

President Donald Trump issued the proclamation in October, saying that “immigrants who enter this country should not further saddle our healthcare system, and subsequently American taxpayers, with higher costs.”

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2017 three-quarters of the 27.4 million uninsured people under age 65 were US citizens.

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