Opinion: A court stops another shameful Trump immigration policy — for now

President Trump continues to try to reduce immigration and favor people from wealthier, predominately white countries.
(Shawn Thew / EFE)

There have been a lot of skirmishes in the Trump administration’s nearly three-year fight to significantly reduce and change the nature of who can immigrate into the U.S.

The racial animosity by the president, of course, drives some of it. Nothing was so revealing as his infamous “shithole” description of African, Latin American and Caribbean nations, most of whose residents have significantly darker skin than the president.

But the efforts have been subtle, too. It’s not just the racial complexion of immigrants that the White House wants to change. Trump and his immigration advisers — led by Stephen Miller — also want to limit admissions to wealthier people.

That was the catalyst behind a policy demanding new immigrants buy health insurance — without subsidies to cover the monthly costs — within 30 days of arrival or otherwise prove they have the resources to cover foreseeable medical bills.


Federal law already denies Medicaid to lawful permanent residents for their first five years in the United States but not to refugees, asylum seekers and several other types of noncitizens. And the Affordable Care Act makes its subsidies available to all noncitizens lawfully present. But the new policy would make someone ineligible to immigrate if they need such help, setting an unduly high financial hurdle.

A federal judge in Oregon blocked that edict Tuesday, issuing an injunction until a legal challenge works its way through the courts. In doing so, the judge noted that the new policy would have significantly altered the nature of immigration by effectively barring poor people.

District Court Judge Michael Simon ruled that this was the sort of decision that fell to Congress to make, not the president, and that the administration’s rule conflicted with the Immigration and Naturalization Act.

And the president failed to offer a legitimate reason for the change.


“The proclamation is anticipated to affect approximately 60% of all immigrant visa applicants,” the judge wrote. “The president offers no national security or foreign relations justification for this sweeping change in immigration law.”

We’ve seen this movie before — the president or his minions coming up with a half-baked policy, issuing a decree without following required regulatory procedures, and then being told “no” by a judge.

But even with the courts as a bulwark, the administration is causing broad and inhumane damage to immigrants, both those here with permission and those without.

The administration recently proposed a new fee schedule for asylum seekers and traditional immigrants, raising the costs 60% to 83%, depending on the type of application. And it would charge an asylum seeker $50 to apply and $490 to obtain a work permit, which would make the U.S. one of only four countries globally to charge people in such desperate straits.


Remember, this is an administration that has pushed other policies raising barriers to admission for asylum seekers, including forcing many to apply first in El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras if they travel through one of them to reach the U.S., regardless of how dangerous conditions in those countries may be.

And the government wants to charge those covered by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — the “Dreamers” — $765 to renew their status, up from $495.

So what does all this mean? That Trump, Miller and company continue to try to erect a range of walls, both physical and bureaucratic, to significantly reduce the number of people seeking to make America their home and skewing the pool of the acceptable to people from richer and whiter countries.

It’s a woeful display of racism and classism from an administration that keeps proving it has no shame.