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April 25, 2017

Presidential Immigration Policies: Endangering Health and Well-being?

Author Affiliations
  • 1O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, DC
JAMA. 2017;317(16):1617-1618. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.3794

President Trump has issued executive orders transforming US immigration policy, potentially harming patient health and well-being. Are the president’s orders lawful and ethical, and what are the effects on the health system?

The president has authorized construction of a barrier along the 2000-mile US-Mexico border, but Congress must first appropriate $12.6 billion to $21.6 billion. The executive order envisions Mexico paying for the barrier by reducing foreign assistance or imposing a 20% import tax. The latter is incompatible with international trade rules proscribing discrimination among trading partners. The federal government has constitutional power to appropriate private property with just compensation, but litigation from landowners and Native American tribes will incur major delays.