U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon granted a preliminary injunction on Tuesday blocking a proclamation by the Trump administration that would require immigrants to demonstrate proof of health insurance in order to receive a visa.
In his written opinion, Simon said that the proclamation could not take effect while a lawsuit that challenges its constitutionality is still in the courts.
President Trump’s proclamation would only apply to individuals applying for immigrant visas from abroad, not those who are already in the country.
Simon’s ruling came in response to a lawsuit by seven American citizens and a nonprofit who claim the proclamation would block nearly two-thirds of all legal immigrants and drastically reduce or eliminate the number of people coming into the United States with family-sponsored visas.
The rule, Simon wrote, 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.”
The judge continued:
There is no evidence in the record that immediate implementation of the Proclamation is necessary to help the ‘national interest’ of reducing uncompensated healthcare costs. On the other hand, there is significant evidence that allowing the Proclamation to go into immediate effect will have an irreparably harmful effect on Plaintiffs, putative class members, state and local governments, and amici (friends of the court.)
“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, attorney with the Justice Action Center, which along with the Portland-based Innovation Law Lab, is representing the plaintiffs.
The nonprofit group Latino Network is one of the plaintiffs. Its website describes it as “a Latino-led education organization, grounded in culturally-specific practices and services” that seeks to achieve “Latino community self-determination.”
Of Simon’s ruling, Latino Network executive director Carmen Rubio said:
We are deeply grateful we had an opportunity to be heard and are relieved by the court’s decision. Our families belong together and our program participants deserve to have their dignity and rights respected, no matter where they come from. Today we can assure our families, staff, program participants that for now their families are safe from the effects of this discriminatory and abusive health care ban.
Supporting the plaintiffs in a friend of the court brief are 21 states, along with the District of Columbia and New York City.
In a statement, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said Simon’s decision disregards federal law and is in violation of the Supreme Court’s ruling last year in Trump v. Hawaii, which recognized the president’s authority to impose broad restrictions on immigration. “We look forward to defending the President’s lawful action,” Grisham said.
While Simon acknowledged Trump v. Hawaii, he said that although Congress may delegate certain powers to the president, the president may not execute those powers in a manner that “expressly override (s) particular provisions” of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965.
“As the text of Article I [of the Constitution] and more than two centuries of legislative practice and judicial precedent make clear, the Constitution vests Congress, not the President, with the power to set immigration policy,” the judge wrote.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs made the case that 1965 Immigration Act does not allow the president to override the multiple factors established by Congress to decide whether a prospective immigrant will become a “public charge.”
Simon agreed, writing:
The public charge provision as amended in 1996 mandates that the consular officer or the Attorney General ‘shall at a minimum consider’ all of the enumerated factors. This codified the longstanding practice of evaluating the ‘totality of the Circumstances’ of the applicant. That subsection ensures that no one single factor is dispositive.
Government lawyers argued that President Trump is trying “to avoid unnecessarily burdening the healthcare system.” But Simon disagreed: “The Proclamation does not discuss any data or provide any estimate regarding how much of the estimated $35 billion in ‘uncompensated costs’ actually stems from recent uninsured legal immigrants or how often recent uninsured legal immigrants use the nation’s healthcare system,” he wrote.
According to the Migration Policy Institute, 57 percent of U.S. immigrants had private health insurance in 2017, compared to 69 percent of native-born citizens. Under the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the uninsured rate for immigrants dropped from 32 percent to 20 percent from 2013 to 2017.
Simon had previously issued a restraining order for the rule on November 3rd.
The U.S. Department of Justice is likely to appeal Simon’s ruling.
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