In dozens of campaign stops, President Barack Obama has trumpeted young undocumented immigrants, known as DREAMers, as the country’s future and said he wants to do everything he can to help them.
But the latest news surrounding his Affordable Care Act has left many in the Latino community speechless.
A decision was made last month to disqualify young undocumented immigrants – many who will be allowed to stay in the United States as part of a new federal policy – from receiving health coverage under the president’s sweeping health care reform.
That decision was made quietly and only became public Tuesday, when an article about it was published in The New York Times.
The secrecy surrounding the new rule prompted an outcry from immigration advocates who felt like the rug was pulled from under them.
“We had been working closely with the administration, so we were quite surprised and shocked by the new restrictions on health coverage,” Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, an advocacy group for low-income immigrants, told the New York Times. “This is a shortsighted, reactionary and bad public policy.”
Hispanic civil rights groups said they were unsure why the administration would try to integrate undocumented youth through immigration relief yet shut them out of the new health care system that is being created.
“We have tried to push for more understanding on why they took these steps,” Jennifer M. Ng’andu, a health policy specialist at Hispanic rights group the National Council of La Raza told Fox News Latino. “You can’t overcome politics by whittling away at the rights of legal immigrants.”
When Obama’s Deferred Action program was first announced in June, it seemed as though the individuals that met the requirements of the program would be eligible for the health care reform benefits. The requirements included being brought into the country before the age of 16, being currently enrolled in school or being a graduate, and being classified as “lawfully present” residents.
However in late August, the administration ruled that those benefiting from this immigration reform would be specifically excluded from the definition of “lawfully present.”
White House spokesman Nick Papas said the deferred-deportation program “was never intended” to give immigrants access to federal health benefits.
That decision may have been made to save money. But Ng’andu said the decision could also be political – the administration may want to keep “health care policy pristine and clear of politics” dealing with immigrants, she said.
That decision means 1.7 million immigrants the Pew Research Center estimated to be eligible for the program will only be able to receive health insurance from employers.