Judge blocks health insurance policy that denies visas for immigrants

PORTLAND, Ore. (CNN) — A judge in Oregon granted a temporary restraining order Saturday against a policy that would have denied immigrants a visa unless they can prove they will have health insurance.

This order comes after a group of US citizens sued the Trump administration, arguing that this is a new form of “family separation.”

The lawsuit, filed in US District Court in Portland, Oregon, claims that the proclamation will bar hundreds of thousands of immigrants from coming to the United States, and as a result, could separate families who are immigrating via family-sponsored visas.

Justice Action Center spokesperson Esther Sung said she was encouraged by the court’s decision in a statement. “The ban would separate families and cut two-thirds of green-card-based immigration starting tonight, were the ban not stopped. It’s egregious that President Trump is attempting to flout the will of Congress and squeeze through a complete overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws without anyone noticing.”

“Today’s decision highlights the urgency of blocking this health care ban before it causes irreparable damage to our community and those we serve,” Carmen Rubio, the executive director of Latino Network, said in a statement.

The proclamation is among a string of sweeping changes that could dramatically curb legal immigration to the United States. President Donald Trump issued the proclamation in October, saying, “immigrants who enter this country should not further saddle our healthcare system, and subsequently American taxpayers, with higher costs.”

The White House called the decision “wrong and unfair” in a statement on Sunday, saying the administration wasn’t allowed to defend the policy in court.

“We strongly disagree with the district court’s decision to impose a nationwide injunction against the President’s policy on a preliminary, emergency basis over the weekend without even affording the government an opportunity to provide a written defense,” the statement read. “Once again, a nationwide injunction is permitting a single judge to thwart the President’s policy judgment on a matter where Congress expressly gave the President authority.”

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

Visa applicants would have to prove they would be covered by an approved health insurance within 30 days of entry into the US or possess the financial means to “pay for reasonably foreseeable medical costs.” The new requirement could make it more difficult for people to immigrate to the US, particularly 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. Medicaid or Affordable Care Act subsidies do not qualify as “approved health insurance” under the proclamation.

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