FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — President Donald Trump announced a new element to his immigration platform last week, requiring those seeking to legally immigrate to the United States to have health insurance or prove they can pay for medical expenses. People in Arkansas are split on whether it should be implemented.
Aaron Cash is an immigration attorney in Rogers, and he said the health insurance requirement for legal immigrants has a few problems.
“You’re coming from Europe or South America, Central America…maybe you haven’t had to worry about health insurance before,” Cash said. “Now, you have to scramble and try to find coverage.”
The proclamation, which was signed by Trump on Friday, declared the entry of “aliens who will financially burden the United States healthcare system is hereby suspended.” The order is set to go into effect Nov. 3.
State Sen. Bob Ballinger (R-District 5) said the question boils down to whether the government should support those who can’t support themselves.
“They are absolutely a drain if they come in and we’re providing their healthcare, we’re providing their housing, we’re providing their food,” Ballinger said.
Ballinger said most legal immigrants don’t fall into that category.
“Most of them are coming in and working their heinies off, providing a labor force,” Ballinger said.
But Ballinger said he wouldn’t be shocked to see the healthcare order experience the same fate as the public charge expansion, which was blocked by a federal injunction late last week.
“They’re using the courts, which happens way too often, to try to exert their policy choice,” Ballinger said. “Not really what the founders envisioned.”
Mayra Esquivel is a paralegal with Arkansas Immigrant Defense in Springdale, and she said she hopes Ballinger’s prediction is correct.
“It’s discriminatory against the immigrants who’re applying for an immigrant visa, and some of them may be low-income,” Esquivel said. “It’s really unfair.”
Esquivel said the plan targets families.
“This is going to affect at the micro-level with immigrant families,” Esquivel said. “Maybe a U.S. citizen child wants to bring their parents over here, be reunited with them.”
Cash said some things need to be taken into account before implementation.
“You may not have a job waiting for you with coverage, and even if you do have a job, there’s a waiting period for the coverage to start,” Cash said.
The proclamation said anybody applying for an entry visa has 30 days to show they have health coverage or the money to cover medical costs. Refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied minors and those holding visas before Nov. 3 would be exempt.