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Trump administration to deny visas to immigrants who can't prove they can pay for health care

Trump plan would deny visas over health costs
Trump administration plans to deny visas to immigrants who can't afford health care 03:59

Washington — In its latest crackdown on legal immigration, the Trump administration announced Friday it is planning to reject visa applications from immigrants the government determines will not be able to pay for health insurance or cover health care costs in the U.S. The new requirement is set to go into effect November 3. 

In a late-night proclamation signed by President Trump, the White House said the government will only accept immigrant visa petitions made abroad if the applicants demonstrate that they will have the ability to secure health insurance within a month of their arrival in the U.S. If that's not possible, then petitioners would need to prove they have the financial resources to pay "reasonably foreseeable medical costs" — a standard not defined in the order.

The order claims U.S. hospitals and health care providers are not being reimbursed for treating those who are uninsured. "The costs associated with this care are passed on to the American people in the form of higher taxes, higher premiums, and higher fees for medical services," the proclamation reads. 

According to the order, the new requirement will not apply to people who already hold immigrant visas, asylum seekers, refugees, children of U.S. citizens living overseas or holders of special visas for Iraqi and Afghan nationals who helped U.S. forces in those countries.    

"This administration is just fixated on the erroneous notion that immigrants are zapping taxpayer resources," Doug Rand, a former White House official under President Obama, told CBS News. "So, they are kind of looking under every rock they possible can for any way to exclude people who aren't wealthy." 

Rand, who co-founded Boundless Immigration after leaving the Obama administration, called the change "very sweeping" in nature, saying it would apply to many of the approximately half a million people who typically apply to immigrate to the U.S. every year. 

Other immigration experts said the new requirement represents the latest effort in a larger campaign by the administration to overhaul the nation's legal immigration system. 

"The administration is on-the-record wanting to cut legal immigration, and particularly wanting to cut legal immigration of lower-skilled, lower-paid immigrants who are probably less likely to have health insurance coverage," said Randy Capps, director of U.S. programs research at the nonpartisan think tank the Migration Policy Institute.

Earlier in the summer, the administration rolled out the final version of a "public charge" regulation, which would make it easier for the government to deny green cards and temporary visas for legal immigrants who use public benefits like food stamps and government-subsidized housing.  

Capps told CBS News that Friday's proclamation will go "much further" than the public charge rule in terms of health-based restrictions on people seeking to immigrate to the U.S. The administration is hoping to accomplish this, he added, by rolling out an abrupt executive order that will not be subject to feedback prior to implementation — unlike the public charge rule, which is expected to take effect later this month.  

"Without any public comment or regulatory process at all, (the president) is just going to put that out there," Capps said, suggesting that the lack of a rule-making process for the change might become a liability in court for the administration. 

Capps said the proclamation does not outline a concrete path for visa petitioners to prove they will either obtain health insurance or cover all medical costs in the U.S. 

The order instructed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to establish "standards and procedures" for U.S. consular offices to determine whether applicants satisfy the new requirements. The State Department did not immediately respond to questions regarding what — if any — steps the agency is taking to comply with the proclamation. 

Immigration advocates were quick to denounce the announcement, saying it represents yet another effort by the Trump administration to penalize low-income immigrants. 

"The Trump administration today launched two more shameless attacks on low-income people and immigrants, by proposing dramatic cuts to life-saving food stamps and seeking to prevent immigrants lacking access to health insurance — of which the administration works constantly to deprive them —from entering the country on immigrant visas," Javier Valdés, co-director of the immigrant advocacy group Make the Road New York, and city council member Carlos Menchaca said in a statement. 

In his order, Mr. Trump invoked the same provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act that his administration used to announce the travel ban against predominately Muslim countries in 2017, as well as a sweeping asylum restriction on migrants who crossed the border illegally between ports of entry that is currently held up in court.

But Rand, the Obama White House official, noted that Mr. Trump cited national security concerns for the past two restrictions.  

"Here, there's not even a gesture at national security," he said. "It's just saying 'well, it's bad for the health care system when people are uninsured.'"

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