The Biden administration this week officially released its proposed rule expanding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) eligibility to include current Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. The decision makes public health policy sense, because a healthier community means a healthier nation. It also acknowledges what we all know about the hundreds of thousands of young people protected by the DACA program.
“DACA recipients, like all Dreamers, are Americans, plain and simple,” Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement on Monday. “The United States is their home, and they should enjoy the same access to health care as their fellow Americans.”
While young immigrants protected by the popular and successful DACA program are able to work legally, those who don’t have employer-based health insurance can’t access affordable care due to their immigration status. They also can’t access it despite their households paying billions in state and local taxes annually. But should the Biden administration’s proposed rule get finalized, nearly 130,000 previously uninsured DACA recipients could soon be on the rolls. Not only will DACA recipients be able to access the affordable care they need, it would also mean greater peace of mind.
“I myself have DACA recipients in my family who will directly benefit from this expansion, and I know that the benefit of having affordable healthcare doesn’t stop at their health but also includes stability, career, and finance,” America’s Voice Political Associate Yuna Oh wrote in a recent post. “They can look forward to a healthier future.”
The Biden administration’s words and actions stand in stark contrast to Republicans, who have targeted families like Oh’s by refusing to act on permanent legislative relief while trying to kill the DACA program through the judiciary.
“Spearheaded by embattled Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton, Republicans have skillfully utilized courts, packed with conservative judges, often Trump appointees, to attack the legal underpinnings of DACA, contrary to the will of the American people who deeply and enduringly support citizenship for Dreamers,” America’s Voice has previously said.
While House Democrats and a small number of House Republicans have twice passed permanent relief in the form of the Dream and Promise Act, ten Senate Republicans refused to step forward to help overcome the Jim Crow filibuster.
Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz in fact single-handedly blocked Senate Democrats’ attempt to maneuver a vote back in 2020, after more than a year of stalling by then-Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Cruz claimed that Democrats were prioritizing “people here illegally,” and not “American workers.”
Word to Ted: DACA recipients are American workers, and more than 109,000 of them hail from your state. They have built homes and careers, and contribute more than $400 million in local and state taxes annually. That’ll also be a rude awakening for noted white supremacist Stephen Miller, who slammed the Biden administration’s proposal as “giving taxpayer-funded healthcare to illegals.” Not that he ever let facts get in the way of his xenophobia.
Texas DACA recipients are also entrepreneurs, working moms and dads, and students at local schools and universities. During times of disaster and need, they step up to help their neighbors, not run off to Cancun.
Like Oh previously noted, “Biden described DACA recipients as ‘Americans in every way – except on paper’ in his announcement of the expansion of the ACA.” The announcement was widely welcomed by leading voices like United We Dream’s Juliana Macedo do Nascimento, who said the proposed rule “will mean that more people will have the life saving health care coverage they need to take care of themselves and their families.”
Macedo do Nascimento importantly noted that Congress still needs “to do its job and pass a path to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented people,” especially when the DACA program remains in peril due to Republican states and their ideological demands to the anti-immigrant judicial pipeline. In the face of Congressional inaction, the president has been left with no choice but to continue using his authority to improve the lives of all who call this nation home.
“Every day, nearly 580,000 DACA recipients wake up and serve their communities, often working in essential roles and making tremendous contributions to our country,” Secretary Becerra continued in the statement. “They deserve access to health care, which will provide them with peace of mind and security.”