Published on: Oct 14, 2019, Last Edited: Oct 14, 2019
President Trump has signed a declaration that will require immigrants to prove they have sufficient financial resources to pay for any health requirements or provide themselves with private medical insurance within 30 days of entering the U.S. the new rules are set to come into force on November 3rd 2019 and will not apply to those already in the U.S.
The new regulation will not apply to children, refugees or asylum seekers but will impact family members of U.S. citizens wishing to apply for visas. The declaration forms part of the administration's wishes to move towards an immigration system based on merit rather than the current family-based system. It follows moves earlier in the year to refuse green cards to immigrants receiving some public welfare benefits.
The government also ordered sponsors to repay income-based welfare payments and has also requested changes to public housing welfare payments that would mean verifying the immigration status of all applicants. The health insurance required can be purchased by the individual or by an employer and may comprise short term cover which usually excludes pre-existing conditions, or a catastrophic medical policy.
Medicaid for poorer applicants will not count and those receiving subsidies to purchase health insurance under the Affordable Care Act will also be denied because these benefits are paid from the federal government budget. While lawful immigrants may qualify for subsidies under the Affordable Care act, this subsidised medical cover does not count as adequate insurance under the new regulations, leading to a Catch-22 situation.
President Trump made the reduction of immigration a central plank of his 2016 run for the White House and it continues to be central to his administration. Only 18,000 refugees are forecast to be permitted to settle in the U.S. in 2020, the lowest number ever recorded for the modern-day refugee resettlement program.
In a statement, the White House said that too many immigrants and non-citizens were benefitting from the generous public health schemes in the US and that this was contributing to the problem of medical costs not covered by insurance.
Around 1.1 million applicants receive green cards every year. Figures from the Migration Policy Institute suggest that in 2017, 67% of immigrants to the US possessed private health insurance, compared to 69% of citizens born in the US, while 30% of immigrants were covered by public health policies, as compared to 36% of U.S. citizens.
Between 2013 and 2017, the numbers of uninsured immigrants fell from 32% to 20% following the introduction of the Affordable Care Act. The new policy is seen by critics as likely to be difficult to implement and as impacting heavily on spouses and other family members of legal immigrants.
More than 51,000 asylum seekers have been sent to towns on the Mexican border, despite warning U.S. citizens not to travel to the region because of the growing risk of murders, kidnappings and violent crime.
Advocates such as the groups Human Rights First have been concerned about the Remain in Mexico program or MPP (Migration Protection Protocols) since its introduction early in 2019 but this week their warnings grew stronger a figures show that there have been nearly 350 reports of kidnapping, rape, torture and other violent attacks on people waiting in Mexico for their case to come before the US immigration courts.
Ursela Ojeda of the Women’s Refugee Commission has visited the border on numerous occasions and worries that these figures represent just the tip of the iceberg. She says that when people fail to appear at their court hearing, it is not apparent what might have happened to them.
Two of the cities in Tamaulipas state, Matamoros and Nuevo Laredo, are considered to be some of the most dangerous places in the world. A Level 4 travel warning has been issued by the State Department, owing to the prevalence of violent crimes such as armed robbery, kidnapping, hijacking, sexual assault, extortion and murder.
It is proving very difficult for U.S. attorneys to provide legal representation for asylum seekers waiting in Mexico and some lawyers have been threatened with violence themselves. There is also a low level of confidence in the administration's claim that vulnerable people are exempt from being sent to Mexico.
In a lawsuit filed in February by advocacy groups against the program, MPP was blocked but later restarted while an appeal against the ruling is ongoing. During the hearing, the U.S. Customs agency claimed that Remain in Mexico was unnecessary as the immigration system was able to cope with the increase in asylum claims.