His­panic lead­ers call­ing for ‘dreamer’ health care

Obama to act after elec­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN

Top His­panic lead­ers asked Pres­i­dent Obama to grant some il­le­gal im­mi­grants ac­cess to Oba­macare, say­ing the “dream­ers” to whom the White House has given ten­ta­tive work per­mits are al­ready pay­ing taxes, so they de­serve gov­ern­ment ben­e­fits.

The re­quest is yet another com­pli­ca­tion stem­ming from the le­gal limbo Mr. Obama cre­ated for the dream­ers, hun­dreds of thou­sands of young adults to whom the pres­i­dent gave a ten­ta­tive le­gal sta­tus in 2012, but who were brought to the U.S. il­le­gally by their par­ents as mi­nors and thus re­main il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

Un­der gov­ern­ment pol­icy, il­le­gal im­mi­grants are barred from buy­ing in­surance on Oba­macare’s ex­changes, and about half the states also pro­hibit them from get­ting Med­i­caid ben­e­fits. But the Na­tional His­panic Lead­er­ship Agenda said those whom Mr. Obama has freed from the dan­ger of de­por­ta­tion should be con­sid­ered “law­fully present for all pur­poses, in­clud­ing el­i­gi­bil­ity for pub­lic ben­e­fits and af­ford­able health care.”

“NHLA asks that you ap­ply the fair­ness and equal­ity that your Ad­min­is­tra­tion has shown in var­i­ous other ar­eas in the health care con­text and en­sure that no one — re­gard­less of their im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus — lacks ac­cess to crit­i­cal health care ser­vices,” His­panic lead­ers said in their let­ter.

Nearly 600,000 il­le­gal im­mi­grants had been ap­proved for ten­ta­tive le­gal sta­tus un­der what the ad­min­is­tra­tion la­beled De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals (DACA). Their sta­tus means they can­not be deported for two years from the time of their ap­proval, and they can ap­ply to re­new that sta­tus ev­ery two years.

They have also been given work per­mits. Most states have also de­cided to al­low them driver’s li­censes.

Im­mi­grant rights ac­tivists have asked Mr. Obama to ex­pand his de­ferred ac­tion pro­gram to in­clude il­le­gal im­mi­grants who are par­ents of U.S. cit­i­zen chil­dren and par­ents of dream­ers. If Mr. Obama were to follow through on that as part of his promised ex­ec­u­tive ac­tion after this year’s elec­tions, it could mean po­ten­tially mil­lions more peo­ple el­i­gi­ble for Oba­macare.

Rose­mary Jenks, gov­ern­ment re­la­tions man­ager for Num­ber­sUSA, which fights for a crack­down on im­mi­gra­tion, said there is a bright di­vid­ing line that de­ter­mines who should be el­i­gi­ble for tax­payer-funded health care ben­e­fits.

“As soon as Congress votes to change the law and al­low il­le­gal aliens to be­come le­gal, then those aliens will have ac­cess to U.S. ben­e­fits. But it’s very clear tax­pay­ers are not in fa­vor of that, which is why Congress has not passed it,” she said.

A Ras­mussen Re­ports poll re­leased ear­lier this month shows just how deep that op­po­si­tion runs.

The poll found 71 per­cent of vot­ers op­posed giv­ing ser­vices to the il­le­gal im­mi­grant chil­dren who surged across the bor­der this sum­mer, and 63 per­cent of the vot­ers sur­veyed said that a gen­er­ous so­cial wel­fare sys­tem in the U.S. draws il­le­gal im­mi­grants here.

Dur­ing the 2009 and 2010 de­bates over Oba­macare, im­mi­grant rights ad­vo­cates fought for ac­cess for il­le­gal im­mi­grants but ran into op­po­si­tion from both the White House and Democrats in Congress, who didn’t want the is­sue sink­ing the en­tire health care law.

Im­mi­grant rights ad­vo­cates, though, say the le­gal sit­u­a­tion for those il­le­gal im­mi­grants who have been granted forms of ten­ta­tive le­gal sta­tus is dif­fer­ent. In­deed, they said the law ac­tu­ally would al­low dream­ers to get health care, but the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion changed its own poli­cies to stop it.

Be­fore Mr. Obama’s June 2012 pol­icy for dream­ers, oth­ers who had been granted de­ferred ac­tion on their de­por­ta­tions had been el­i­gi­ble for pub­licly funded health care ben­e­fits, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Latina In­sti­tute for Re­pro­duc­tive Jus­tice.

But in Au­gust 2012 the ad­min­is­tra­tion is­sued new guid­ance say­ing dream­ers wouldn’t be el­i­gi­ble — in essence cre­at­ing yet another cat­e­gory of ten­ta­tive le­gal sta­tus that was el­i­gi­ble for just a sub­set of rights to which other im­mi­grants are en­ti­tled.

Mr. Obama had planned to take ac­tion ex­tend­ing his non­de­por­ta­tion poli­cies this sum­mer but backed off, fear­ing a back­lash from vot­ers. Now the White House has said he will act after Elec­tion Day, when vot­ers can no longer pun­ish him or his party.

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