Posted on October 11, 2019

Trump Just Quietly Cut Legal Immigration by Up to 65%

Nicole Narea, Vox, October 9, 2019

With one proclamation signed late Friday evening last week, President Donald Trump made his adviser Stephen Miller’s dreams of restricting legal immigration a reality.

When it goes into effect November 3, the proclamation will make getting into the US much harder for immigrants sponsored by family members, the phenomenon Trump has excoriated as “chain migration.” It will throw up a barrier to those coming through the diversity visa lottery — the subject of Trump’s “shithole countries” rant — which allows the US to accept 55,000 immigrants annually from countries with historically low levels of immigration.

Researchers estimate it could keep up to two-thirds of future immigrants out who would be admitted under current law.

Under the proclamation, immigrants who do not have health insurance and cannot afford to pay medical care costs will not be able to move to the US permanently.

The move could bar roughly 375,000 immigrants annually, based on projections of data from fiscal year 2017, according to Julia Gelatt, a senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute.

Those 375,000 immigrants won’t be affected at random. The proclamation targets immigrants who have come to the US legally under policies Trump and his advisers often attack.


How the rule would work

Some immigrants, mostly family members of US citizens or green card holders, can apply for lawful permanent residency abroad and obtain a green card almost immediately. Otherwise, immigrants can come to the US on two types of visas: those for immigrants who intend to settle in the US permanently and eventually obtain a green card, and those that only allow an immigrant to remain in the US temporarily.

In order to get a green card, an immigrant will have to prove to a consular officer that they will obtain health insurance within 30 days of their arrival in the US. If they can’t, they must demonstrate that they will be able to pay for their medical expenses.


According to the Migration Policy Institute, 34 percent of those recent green card recipients are uninsured, and another 31 percent have other health care benefits that don’t count as insurance under the proclamation, including Medicaid or insurance purchased with subsidies on an Affordable Care Act exchange.

Families don’t stop qualifying for individual insurance subsidies until they have a household income that is at least four times the federal poverty line, or over $103,000 for a family of four and nearly $50,000 for an individual. That’s a threshold that is hard to clear for all but the wealthiest immigrants: The median income for a US immigrant household was $56,000, according to the Pew Research Center.

The proclamation applies to all immigrants applying for visas at consulates abroad with the intention of living in the US permanently. There are some limited exceptions: immigrants who already have a valid visa, children of US citizens, unaccompanied children, permanent residents who have been outside of the US for more than one year, and recipients of “special immigrant visas” for Afghans and Iraqis who have aided the US government and their families.

{snip} But parents and spouses of US citizens and the immediate family members of lawful permanent residents are subject to the proclamation.

The rule will fall hardest on immigrants who are sponsored by family members and those from the diversity visa lottery. {snip}

It’s not clear at this point what income level would be sufficient to be approved for a visa under the proclamation.

A State Department official said Monday that consular officers will decide whether applicants are eligible for a visa under the proclamation based on information available when they apply for a visa, including medical and financial documentation that is already required as part of their application package.

That most likely refers to the income and asset information submitted by a “sponsor,” usually a US citizen or lawful permanent resident family member or an employer, who claims financial responsibility for a visa applicant, immigration lawyer Rafael Urena said.


Some within his administration want to go even further. Miller has been the architect of sweeping administrative changes that aim to keep out all but the wealthiest immigrants.

He was behind the so-called “public charge regulation,” which, if it goes into effect October 15, would give immigration officials much more leeway to turn away low-income immigrants based on an evaluation of 20 factors, ranging from the use of certain public benefits programs — including food stamps, Section 8 housing vouchers, and Medicaid — to English language proficiency. That regulation could affect over 382,000 people seeking to enter the US, extend their visa, or upgrade their temporary visa to a green card.