The Biden administration is proposing a rule that, if finalized, would open eligibility for Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act health insurance exchanges to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals beneficiaries.
On Thursday, the White House announced that the Department of Health and Human Services plans to propose a rule expanding the definition of “legal presence” to include DACA recipients, also known as “Dreamers.” The administration intends to implement the policy change by the end of the month, according to the White House.
“Health care should be a right, not a privilege, and my administration has worked hard to expand health care. And today, more Americans than ever have health insurance,” President Joe Biden said. in a pre-recorded. video announcing the decision. “Today’s announcement aims to give DACA recipients the same opportunity.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra applauded the decision, noting about one-third of current DACA recipients do not have health insurance.
Some recipients have accessed coverage through work, military service, and programs that some states have extended to them.
Advocates say undocumented immigrants and DACA recipients deserve rewards for helping keep the economy afloat during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These were people who provided healthcare or other types of care, helped keep small businesses open and made sure people had enough to eat. At the same time, many of these same people who were part of our frontline workforce during the pandemic, they themselves found themselves unable to access many of the assistance programs that we others were able to gain access,” said Sergio Gonzales, executive director of the Immigration Center. “Not only was it completely unfair and unfair, but it doesn’t make sense. When we have healthier people and we have people who can access health care, it moves the whole country forward. It ensures that we have healthier communities as a whole.”
Paloma Bouhid, a DACA beneficiary, says she lost her health care coverage when she was laid off from her job in tourism and hospitality during the pandemic and was “terrified” at the idea of contracting COVID. She recently started her own business arranging homes, businesses and other spaces for clients and had to take out private insurance for some of the medical tests she had to undergo.
“It’s so expensive and it’s such a big part of my finances, as a small business owner, that I’m always very paranoid about getting sick or having an accident. is just absolute paranoia,” Bouhid said. “It’s a huge relief to know that if something happens I’m covered and I can take care of myself and prioritize my health and know that everything will be fine.
While immigrant advocates largely welcomed the president’s announcement, some conservatives criticized his plan to expand health care to DACA recipients.
“Rewarding illegal immigration will lead to more illegal immigration. It’s an insult to American citizenship,” said Republican Senator Tom Cotton. tweeted.
There are approximately 580,000 current beneficiaries of the program and nearly 800,000 young migrants have benefited from DACA, according to data collected by US Citizenship and Immigration Services broadcasts. The program was launched by the Obama-Biden administration in 2012, which allowed certain immigrants who were brought to the country as children to work legally and remain in the country for renewable periods of up to to two years if they fulfill several strict conditions. DACA does not provide a pathway to citizenship.
Multiple legal challenges have threatened the fate of DACA since its inception, with a lawsuit pending in Texas District Court. In 2021, U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen ruled the program illegal. A federal appeals court later upheld its decision, but allowed protections to continue for current beneficiaries pending lower court review of the Biden administration’s efforts to codify the program into administrative law. While recipients are still allowed to apply to renew their status every two years through DACA, new applicants have been barred for nearly two years.