The White House is considering a policy change that would discourage lawful immigrants who are seeking Green Cards from using government-supported services, including healthcare. Under the proposal, an immigrant who is in the United States under a visa could get passed over for permanent residency status if they use Medicaid, a subsidized Obamacare plan, SNAP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, tax credits, or several other government benefits. According to a draft of the law obtained by The Washington Post, even letting a child who is a US criticized use these benefits could jeopardize a parent’s chances of obtaining permanent residency. In the past several years, the US has issued roughly 1 million Green Cards annually.
The leaked document said that officials would count the use of non-cash benefit by an applicant within the past three years as a “heavily weighed negative factor” in deciding permanent residency.
Critics of the law worry that this policy would deter millions of Green Card hopefuls away from seeking timely health services, resulting in both crises of public health and healthcare administration. Visa holders might stay away from routine treatment and preventative visits and rely on emergency rooms as their only form of medical care. This would create higher, likely uncompensated, costs for providers and result in sicker patients. The law would also encourage millions people to stay away from vaccinations, risking outbreaks of diseases that otherwise would have been easily prevented. An increase in births outside of the hospital setting is also likely to follow the implementation of this policy, resulting in higher rates of infant mortality and more women dying as a result of child birth.
Applicants who have “expensive health conditions” such as cancer, heart disease, COPD, or “mental disorders” and who have used a subsidized program would also get a heavily weighted negative mark on their application.
The current proposal does give immigrants the option of posting a minimum $10k bond to help overcome the determination that they would cost the US more economic activity than they would generate. The current draft would not apply to refugees or political asylum seekers, but would apply to most employment-based visas and diversity-lottery visas.
Pushback against the leaked draft has been swift. The governor of Washington has already requested a meeting with the administration to discuss the policy’s effects on tax-paying, lawful immigrants. Governor Inslee has also cited a likely increase in the homeless population as a reason for not moving forward this the administration’s plan.
In March, the Department of Homeland Security sent a version of the proposal to the Office of Management and Budget. OMB is now reviewing it for conflict with existing law. The next step would be a notice-and-comment period, where the public would be allowed to comment on the proposal before its finalized.
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