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In NY, DACA Recipients Win Teaching Licenses; In CA, 170,000 Undocumented Kids Win Health Care Coverage

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Two huge victories this week are poised to dramatically change the lives of thousands of undocumented immigrants in New York and California.

In New York, the state Board of Regents rejected opposition from Republicans and approved plans to allow DACA recipients to apply for teaching certification, medical-related licenses, and over 50 other professional licenses.

“These are young people who came to the U.S. as children,” state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. “They are American in every way but immigration status. They’ve done everything right. They’ve worked hard in school, some have even served in the military.”

“Now these young people are eligible to get professional licenses and teacher certification in New York State, opening a new world of economic opportunity for them.”

Earlier this year in Nebraska, young immigrants won a similar victory when the state legislature overrode the Governor’s veto of a bill that would allow DACA recipients to apply for professional licenses.

In California, more than 170,000 undocumented immigrant children are now eligible to enroll in state-funded health insurance plans for the very first time in the state.

“Health4AllKids,” introduced by State Sen. Ricardo Lara (himself the son of undocumented immigrants) makes California the fifth state in the nation to extend healthcare coverage to undocumented immigrant children:

The “Health4AllKids” health care expansion allows low-income children under the age of 19 to receive affordable care under Medi-Cal, the name for California’s Medicaid program, regardless of their immigration status. This will allow undocumented kids to access the full scope of Medi-Cal benefits — such as regular preventive and primary care, dental, and mental health services, as well as behavioral health treatment for children with autism.

Many uninsured, undocumented individuals do not seek out medical treatment until they have to be rolled into the emergency room, which cannot deny care to anyone regardless of immigration status. In turn, emergency room visits cost the California economy between $18.3 billion and $36.7 billion in lost productivity, according to a 2009 Center for American Progress report.

For practical reasons, not seeking treatment for illnesses can also lead to significant financial hardship, since uninsured people are more likely to fall into medical bankruptcy than insured individuals, according to a 2007 American Journal of Medicine study.

Health advocates also argue that the extending health care services to the undocumented population has the potential of saving lives through preventative care, particularly because uninsured individuals are less likely to seek out services for major health conditions and chronic disease, which could have a big impact in their sunset years.