President Joe Biden’s administration has announced that the United States will permit some undocumented immigrants brought to the nation as young children to receive government health insurance programs. The announcement was hailed as “long overdue” by many.
The Biden administration said on Thursday that participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program would be eligible to apply for Medicaid, a health insurance program for low-income Americans.
DACA recipients—also known as “Dreamers”—could use other programs the Affordable Care Act made available.
“They’re American in every way except for on paper,” Biden said in a video shared on Twitter. “We need to give Dreamers the opportunities and support they deserve.”
DACA, which former President Obama introduced in 2012 to permit beneficiaries to live and work in the US without fear of deportation, is now enrolled by about 580,000 people.
Today, my Administration is announcing our plan to expand health coverage for Dreamers, the thousands of young people brought to the U.S. as kids.
We’re not done fighting for their pathway to citizenship, but we’re getting them the opportunities they deserve in the meantime. pic.twitter.com/4eqNMMNxtt
— President Biden (@POTUS) April 13, 2023
However, the program has come under harsh criticism from Republican lawmakers, and the program’s future is questionable as a result of several legal challenges.
According to the Biden administration, efforts are being made to “preserve and fortify” DACA without legislative solutions through administrative actions like Thursday’s statement.
“While Congress has failed to act, the Biden-Harris Administration has taken significant measures to protect Dreamers,” the White House said in a fact sheet, including fighting legal challenges that “attempt to strip them of the only home they have ever known”.
Participants in DACA were not previously qualified for federal health insurance programs due to their inability to demonstrate “lawful presence” in the US.
By the end of the month, the Department of Health and Human Services plans to try to amend that law, according to The Associated Press.
Only a tiny part of the estimated 20 million immigrants living in the US without proper paperwork are covered under DACA. Legal challenges have further lowered the number of qualified applicants.
The administration tried to entirely scrap the program while Donald Trump was president. In light of these recent initiatives, rights advocates and progressive US lawmakers warmly welcomed the Biden administration’s decision on Thursday.
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“We commend the Biden administration for moving to rectify this years-long injustice so that more DACA recipients can access the care they need,” said Kica Matos, executive vice president of programmes and strategy at the National Immigration Law Center.
“This move comes as many DACA recipients experience harmful mental and physical health effects from living through continuous, politically motivated attacks on the program,” Matos said in a statement.
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal wrote on Twitter that the move marked “a long overdue step toward justice.” “Health care is a human right, and DACA recipients deserve access to that care just like everyone else,” she said.
“Millions of Dreamers have called our country home since they were too young to remember anywhere else. They deserve EVERY opportunity to succeed and live a healthy life here in America,” US Senator Tina Smith also tweeted.
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