CHN: Courts Block “Public Charge” Implementation; Trump Issues Harsh Proclamation on Immigrants and Health Care

No fewer than five federal judges earlier this month blocked the Trump Administration from implementing its “Public Charge” proposal, which would have denied visas or green cards to immigrants if they have used certain aid programs such as SNAP, Medicaid, or housing assistance.

U.S. District judges in California, Illinois, Maryland, New York, and Washington ruled against the proposal, which had been set to take effect Oct. 15. Three of the rulings – from Maryland, New York, and Washington — included nationwide injunctions against the public charge regulations; the other two were more limited in jurisdiction.

The Trump Administration has not announced plans to appeal the rulings, but is expected to do so. Meanwhile, advocates are declaring victory and relief that the new rules will not go into effect any time soon.

Marielena Hincapié, Executive Director of the National Immigration Law Center, said the court orders “will preserve dignity for countless families, who will be able to continue making empowered decisions about their well-being without concern.”

“We have known from day one that this racially motivated public charge rule is unlawful,” she added. “The public charge attack is about sending one message: if you’re not white or you’re not wealthy, you’re not welcome. We will continue to fight to defend children and their families until the public charge rule is ultimately struck down, because it has no place in a country that’s supposed to be the land of freedom and justice for all.”

Olivia Golden, Executive Director of the Center for Law and Social Policy, said the public charge regulations are “rooted in discrimination and racial animus, target lawfully present immigrants, and send the message that only wealthy and white immigrants have a place in the United States.”

“But today, once again, the courts have stepped in to stop this Administration in its attempt to implement a policy that divides us as a nation and damages the lives of millions of immigrants, their families, their children, and their communities,” Golden added. “Today’s ruling means a temporary halt in the implementation of the public charge rule….We encourage immigrants to continue to seek the services they need to take care of their families and ensure their children’s health and economic security.”

Ample evidence exists that the changes included in the public charge proposal have already had the effect the Trump Administration intended – to chase immigrant families into the shadows and convince them not to apply for aid they are eligible to receive. According to the Urban Institute, one in seven adults in immigrant families reported that they or a family member did not participate in a noncash government benefit program in 2018 for fear of risking future green card status as the Administration was preparing to roll out its public charge regulations. This share was even larger (one in five) among adults in low-income immigrant families.

Meanwhile, just days before the updated public charge proposal was to go into effect, President Trump issued a proclamation that will require immigrants outside of the United States to prove they can obtain health insurance before they are issued a visa.

The rule, which is set to take effect Nov. 3, says immigrants must demonstrate they have health insurance within 30 days of entering the country or that they can afford to cover any medical expenses.

The required insurance can be provided by an employer or be purchased individually, and it can be for catastrophic or short-term coverage. However, immigrants would not be able to obtain a visa if they use the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies when purchasing coverage. The ACA’s subsidies, paid for by the federal government, typically help those purchasing insurance save hundreds or thousands of dollars per year when buying health coverage.

The proclamation effectively creates a health insurance mandate for immigrants – somewhat ironic, given that Trump and the GOP-led Congress repealed the ACA’s individual mandate, arguing that its tax penalty was “cruel” and created an unfair burden.