The past 12 months brought fee hikes, work permit delays, and spiraling wait times for immigrants to the United States. It’s been a rough year for immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees. Many of the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies were put on hold by federal courts, but the government’s efforts still left many immigrants feeling scared and confused — and also worried about worsening USCIS wait times and the threat of sharp increases to the cost of moving to the United States.
Here are the policies that had the biggest impact on immigrants in 2019:
1. Public charge rule
The government’s most controversial legal immigration policy was the introduction of the public charge rule. The keystone in Trump’s “invisible wall,” this expansive (and expensive) regulatory overhaul seeks to bar would-be immigrants from gaining green cards and other visas based on financial factors, education, health, credit history, and even language skills. A court has temporarily barred the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from implementing the new rule for domestic applicants, but a similar rule remains in place for applicants outside the United States, and the Department of Justice is drafting plans to use the rule to deport current green card holders.
2. Health insurance mandate
To complement the public charge rule, President Trump rolled out an executive order requiring immigrants applying from outside the United States to show they would have health insurance or have the financial means to pay for medical costs once in the United States. The vague but far-reaching policy, which could affect huge numbers of immigrants and visitors to the United States, was recently blocked by a federal judge while a lawsuit opposing its constitutionality makes its way through the courts.