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Federal judge blocks Trump rule requiring immigrants to prove health insurance

Portland, Oregon — A U.S. judge in Oregon on Tuesday granted a preliminary injunction blocking a Trump administration proclamation that would require immigrants to show proof of health insurance to get a visa. U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon said in a written opinion that the proclamation could not take effect while a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality makes its way through the courts.

The proclamation issued by President Donald Trump in October would only apply to people seeking immigrant visas from abroad, not those in the U.S. already.

Seven U.S. citizens and a nonprofit organization sued to prevent the rule from taking effect, saying it would block nearly two-thirds of all prospective legal immigrants. The lawsuit also said the rule would greatly reduce or eliminate the number of immigrants who enter the U.S. with family sponsored visas.

In his written opinion, Judge Simon said Mr. Trump had offered "no national security or foreign relations justification for this sweeping change in immigration law. Instead, the President attempts to justify the Proclamation based on an asserted burden to the United States healthcare system and federal taxpayers."

Federal judge blocks health care requirement for immigrants

"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," said Esther Sung, an attorney with the Justice Action Center.

In a statement Tuesday night, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Simon's decision disregards federal law in violation of a Supreme Court decision last year recognizing the president's broad authority to impose such restrictions. "We look forward to defending the President's lawful action," she said.

Simon previously issued an emergency temporary restraining order on Nov. 3 in response to the lawsuit and heard oral arguments before issuing Tuesday's opinion.

Under the government's visa rule, the required insurance can be bought individually or provided by an employer, and it can be short-term coverage or catastrophic.

Medicaid doesn't count, and an immigrant can't get a visa if using the Affordable Care Act's subsidies when buying insurance. The federal government pays for those subsidies.

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The Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan immigration think tank, says 57% of U.S. immigrants had private health insurance in 2017, compared with 69% of U.S.-born residents, and 30% of immigrants had public health insurance coverage, compared with 36% of native-born residents.

The uninsured rate for immigrants dropped from 32% to 20% from 2013 to 2017, since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, according to the institute.

There are about 1.1 million people who obtain green cards each year.

Earlier this year, the administration made sweeping changes to regulations that would deny green cards to immigrants who use some forms of public assistance. The courts have blocked that measure.

"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 immigration reporter Camlio Montoya-Galvez in October. "They are kind of looking under every rock they possible can for any way to exclude people who aren't wealthy." 

Health Overhaul Immigration Fear
In this Dec. 27, 2017, photo, Community Council health care navigator Fidel Castro Hernandez, center, listens to legal U.S. resident Maria Ana Pina, left, as she signs up for the Affordable Care Act with her son Roberto Pina at the Community Council offices in Dallas. LM Otero / AP

Rand, who co-founded Boundless Immigration after leaving the Obama administration, called the change under Mr. Trump's proclamation "very sweeping" in nature. 

Other immigration experts told CBS News the 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.

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