While continuing to push Congress to establish a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, said Biden, "we need to give Dreamers the opportunities and support they deserve."
U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal was among the immigrant rights advocates who praised an announcement by the Biden administration on Thursday regarding a rule change that will allow immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children to obtain health coverage under the Medicaid and Affordable Care Act programs—a move that could benefit up to 580,000 people who are recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.
President Joe Biden announced that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will move to change the definition of people who have a "lawful presence" in the U.S. for the purposes of obtaining healthcare under the ACA and Medicaid—amending it to include DACA recipients.
The change is expected to be final "by the end of the month," said the president.
Jayapal called the proposal "a long overdue step toward justice."
\u201cHealth care is a human right, and DACA recipients deserve access to that care just like everyone else. Glad to see the Biden Administration move to provide coverage to them and take a long overdue step toward justice. https://t.co/bbuLOdmddG\u201d— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@Rep. Pramila Jayapal) 1681403156
The Washington Democrat chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which released its 2023 Executive Action Agenda last month that included a call for the administration to "eliminate all eligibility barriers to health services under the Affordable Care Act for DACA recipients."
The president emphasized that he is still pushing the U.S. Congress to establish a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants including DACA recipients, but said that in the meantime, "we need to give Dreamers the opportunities and support they deserve," referring to the name rights advocates use for people who benefit from the Obama-era program.
\u201cToday, my Administration is announcing our plan to expand health coverage for Dreamers, the thousands of young people brought to the U.S. as kids.\n\nWe\u2019re not done fighting for their pathway to citizenship, but we're getting them the opportunities they deserve in the meantime.\u201d— President Biden (@President Biden) 1681394687
Nearly half of undocumented immigrants lack health insurance, and HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra noted Thursday that number includes about one-third of the 580,000 people who are currently enrolled in DACA.
"Today's rule would change that," said Becerra.
The national advocacy group Mi Familia Vota said the "expansion of critical healthcare programs to DACA recipients" was a positive step as advocates "work to create structural changes to fully include all immigrants."
\u201cMFV applauds the expansion of critical healthcare programs to DACA recipients. We must now work to create structural changes to fully include all immigrants. We look forward to continuing to work with the Biden administration to fix our immigration system. https://t.co/1WIsTYAzIi\u201d— Mi Familia Vota (@Mi Familia Vota) 1681408789
"While we continue fighting for a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients, it's important to ensure they have access to the healthcare they deserve," said Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, president of Next Gen America. "This will improve the way of life of hundreds of thousands of people."
The new proposed rule comes nearly three years after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected former Republican President Donald Trump's attempt to dismantle the DACA program.
Republican plaintiffs won a case in Texas in 2021 in which they claimed former Democratic President Barack Obama acted unlawfully when he created the program without an act of Congress. The Biden administration appealed that ruling and a federal appeals court sent the case back the the lower court in October, but allowed current DACA recipients to renew their status and retain the work permits and deportation protections the program affords them.