The Donald Trump administration continues to create barriers to make it difficult for people to immigrate to the US to become citizens. Immigration advocates find themselves scrambling to counter Trump’s xenophobic and racist policies.
A coalition of immigration advocacy groups and legal organizations on Wednesday mounted the first legal challenge against a sweeping proclamation Trump issued earlier this month, reports CBS News. The new rule would allow the immigration authorities to reject visa applications from immigrants it determines will not be able to afford health insurance or pay for medical costs.
If visa applicants are unable to show some proof of their ability to pay for insurance or medical costs, overseas consular offices can deny their applications. According to an estimate from the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, the new requirements could deny entry to approximately 375,000 would-be immigrants each year.
“It is terrifying for US citizens to think that they may never be able to reunite in person with their loved ones because of this proclamation,” said AILA Federal Litigation Director Jesse Bless. “The proclamation represents the latest attempt to separate families and undermine due process solely on the basis of cultural and national origin-based bias. It’s as unAmerican as the public charge rule,” he said in a statement.
The coalition asked the US District Court in Oregon to block the Trump administration from implementing the new policy, which is slated to take effect Sunday.
Another barrier faces the possibility of a lawsuit. On Friday (Oct. 25), the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced changes to the naturalization process that could prevent citizenship for tens of thousands of non-wealthy applicants each year.
Under current policy, there is a $725 application fee. US Citizenship and Immigration Services currently waives the fee for those who cannot afford to pay it, which is approximately 40% of applicants. Under rules in place since 2010, lawful permanent residents (also called green card holders) who receive benefits from another government agency are automatically entitled to a fee waiver, making the process easy for USCIS to administer and for applicants and service providers to complete.
The new rules will make it much harder to qualify for a fee waiver, and will severely curtail naturalization applications, particularly from low-income applicants. Recent research from Stanford University’s Immigration Policy Lab suggests that the new rules could reduce the number of naturalization applications filed each year by as much as 10 percent.
“This rule change is about changing the complexion of future immigrants from Black and Brown to White and furthers a class-based society that is discriminatory and unwelcoming,” said John C. Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice.
“We cannot allow our government policies to reject the time-tested promise on the Statue of Liberty of a country that is accepting of the potential of the tired, poor, and huddled masses who yearn to breathe free in America,” said Yang.
Advancing Justice-AAJC, Protect Democracy, the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, and Mayer Brown LLP are preparing to file suit in California on behalf of organizations and communities who will be harmed by these changes.
The lawsuit on the health care requirement and the pending lawsuit limiting the citizenship fee waiver are the latest barriers being challenged. Last summer, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) tried to implement the so-called “public charge” rule that would allow the denial of visas and green cards to people who use or might use certain public benefits like food stamps and government-subsidized housing. That rule is currently held up in court, while a companion State Department regulation has not been implemented because the agency has yet to clear a new form to be used by visa applicants.
Other anti-immigrant attempts include the Muslim ban, severely limiting refugees or those seeking asylum, and the continuing deportation of Southeast Asians who had run afoul of the law. New limits on the family reunification guidelines also are aimed at reducing immigration, by slowing to a trickle those seeking asylum at the US southern border- including separating children from their parents to dissuade those same asylum seekers and the obsessive push for a wall on the US-Mexico border.
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