NOVEMBER 2019
Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida

Immigration

Dilip Patel

By DILIP PATEL

Trump’s New Travel Ban: Health Insurance Related

The President’s newest travel ban related to healthcare benefits is set to go into effect on Nov. 3. The President’s proclamation issued Oct. 5, states that it “seeks suspension of entry of immigrants who will financially burden the U.S. healthcare system. It provides that immigrants will be banned from entering the U.S. unless they can prove they will be covered by private health insurance within 30 days of entry or if they can prove they are wealthy enough to pay for any “reasonably foreseeable medical costs” out of pocket. However, the rule does not provide any guidance on what constitutes a “reasonably foreseeable medical cost” and leaves it up to the Secretary of State to create new rules implementing the ban.

Although it’s still too early to determine the full effect of the ban, early estimates suggest it could block as many as 375,000 legal immigrants a year. We now await results of court challenges already under way.

Public Charge Regulations On Hold

This is an update on the Public Charge provisions discussed last month. The Trump administration suffered more immigration blows in court on Oct. 11. The new “public charge” rule, which went into effect Oct. 15, was blocked in three separate rulings by judges around the country. Courts in New York, San Francisco, and Seattle issued rulings halting the implementation of the rule. This was largely seen as one of the Trump administration’s most significant attacks on legal immigration.

Since 1882, federal law has banned immigrants likely to become a “public charge” from immigrating to the United States. Although Congress has never defined the term, for generations the government interpreted the term to mean someone who is “primarily dependent” on public financial support.

Since 1999, only those individuals who received more than 50 percent of their income from federal cash assistance programs were determined to be a public charge.

But the now-halted Trump regulation had imposed a broad redefinition of public charge, which would find that someone was a public charge for receiving non-cash supplemental benefits like Medicaid or food stamps. The administration declared that these rules were needed to promote immigrant “self-sufficiency.”

In the final regulations, the Trump administration declared that any individual who received any amount of certain benefits for “an aggregate of 12 months in a 36 month period” would be deemed a public charge. Under this new test, even disabled immigrants who relied on Medicaid to get a job and work would be declared public charges.

In her order, San Francisco Federal Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton criticized Department of Homeland Security for departing from the long-accepted definition of “public charge” and refusing to calculate the rule’s potential impacts on public health. Judge Hamilton noted that under DHS’s new test, a person could be deemed a public charge for “receiving less than 50 cents per day” in food stamps. “At no point over the long history described above could that have qualified one as a public charge.”

Federal Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson in Seattle found that the Trump administration had expanded the definition of public charge far beyond what was allowed by law. She also criticized Department of Homeland Security for departing from its limited role to set policy by passing a rule aimed at reducing healthcare costs.

On top of these three rulings, federal judges in Maryland and Illinois are still considering whether to issue their own injunctions blocking the rule.

Applicants processing immigrant visas at US Consulates abroad would be subject to regulations published by the Department of State. The Department also announced on Oct. 15 that even though that had published new rules on Oct. 11, no changes will be implemented to the current process until a new form has been approved.

Dilip Patel of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC, a board-certified expert on immigration law, can be reached at (813) 222-1120 or email dilip.patel@bipc.com

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