Since he first promised to build a wall along the U.S. southern border, President Donald Trump has made cracking down on illegal immigration a mainstay of his platform. In the ongoing effort to decrease the flow of undocumented migrants across the border, the Trump administration has implemented policies that also limit the number of legal immigrants.
On Friday, the president signed a proclamation that says the United States will deny visas to immigrants unless they prove they can afford healthcare. The law takes effect on Nov. 3.
Under the rule, immigrants trying to move to the United States legally won’t be allowed to enter the country unless they can prove to the consulate officer they will have health insurance coverage within 30 days of arriving or they have enough money to pay for any medical costs. Health coverage through Medicaid doesn’t count. Though lawful immigrants qualify for Affordable Care Act subsidies, using them to buy the required insurance will result in a denied visa application. The rule applies to spouses and parents of U.S. citizens, making it more difficult for naturalized citizens to sponsor their family members. The White House instructed the State Department to write up standards and procedures to implement the proclamation but did not give details about how it will be enforced.
The rule only affects visas for people who want to immigrate, not those who want to stay temporarily. It does not apply to children or people who work for the U.S. government, and the required insurance can be purchased individually or provided by an employer. In 2017, only about 57 percent of U.S. immigrants had private health insurance, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
Earlier this year, the Trump administration moved to deny permanent residency to immigrants who use federally funded benefits. The change clarified so-called “public charge” rules so that people who participate in programs such as Medicaid or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) cannot get green cards. In June, the president ordered government agencies to start enforcing laws requiring immigrants’ sponsors, often family members, to pay the government back for any benefits noncitizens may have used.
At the same time, the Trump administration has drastically reduced another group of legal entrants to the United States: refugees. The State Department dropped the refugee cap to 18,000 people, the lowest number in the program’s 50-year history. Before Trump became president, the United States allowed an average of 90,000 refugees to enter per year. The number of refugees allowed into the United States has dropped 80 percent during Trump’s time in office.
For the first time, the president also gave state and local governments the authority to refuse to resettle refugees. Some states, including Texas and Tennessee, had already filed suits against the government to stop resettlement efforts. Refugees can move anywhere in the United States after their initial placement, but the rule change limits their resettlement options.
Alex Nowrasteh, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, noted that immigrants make up about 11 percent of the United States’ economic output. He said most studies show that immigration results in an overall increase in wages.
Nowrasteh pointed to the work of another Cato researcher, Julian Simon, who argued that a larger population is better for the economy. That holds true whether the growth is from a higher birthrate or more immigration. Fertility has been on the decline in the United States, hitting a 30-year low last year.
“The wealth produced by immigration is vast,” Nowrasteh wrote. “The current gains from immigration are small compared to what they could be under a more liberalized system.”