President Biden's expansion of healthcare access for migrants sparks controversy

Jalyn Smoot
Photo byCreative Commons

WASHINGTON -- President Joe Biden announced Thursday that hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children will be able to apply for Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act’s health coverage.

The action will allow participants in the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to access government-funded health insurance programs.

"We’re not done fighting for their pathway to citizenship, but we're getting them the opportunities they deserve in the meantime," Biden said.

So far through Biden's term, his immigration policies have been the stark difference from ex-President Donald Trump's approach that Biden promised during his election.

Instead of increasing border patrol and security, Biden has instead made the process of migrating to the U.S. more seamless, and his decision to increase healthcare for migrants makes the country even more inviting.

"[Migrants] are American in every way except for on paper,” Biden said in a video released on his Twitter page. “We need to give Dreamers the opportunities and support they deserve.”

According to the new regulations, the 600,000 immigrants with active DACA status will be able to apply for health insurance through the federal health insurance marketplace and their state Medicaid programs, where they may be eligible for financial aid based on their income.

The expanded healthcare coverage may be short-lived for Dreamers, though, if DACA is overturned completely, which could be the case if it loses its landmark court battle.

Since 2012, DACA has protected 800,000 undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children from deportation and granted them work permits; nevertheless, they are not eligible for government health benefits. Due to this, Dreamers are the only group of immigrants shielded from deportation by other policies, such as parole and temporary protected status.

This is despite the fact that DACA recipients pay $6.2 billion in federal taxes and $3.3 billion in state and local taxes every year.

Now, with increased healthcare, Dreamers can at least enjoy some of the benefits they already pay for with taxes.

Biden's decision to expand Dreamer health coverage, according to Jose Muñoz, national communications manager for immigrant advocacy group United We Dream, was a "major victory." He claimed that up until this point, hundreds of thousands of DACA beneficiaries who were self-employed did not have access to employer-sponsored insurance, or were uninsured, had to pay higher premiums for private insurance.

“When you are thinking about going to the doctor for an annual checkup or like when you’re sick, those are a part of life and it is such a human need,” Muñoz said. “Unfortunately for far too many people, especially for undocumented people, getting affordable health insurance is often inaccessible.”

Conservatives have not been as enthusiastic about the decision, however. Instead, Biden's move to expand migrants' healthcare has sparked controversy as many have questioned if his immigration policies are too relaxed.

Still, Dreamers and migrants alike have to be thrilled with the new bill. For as long as it is in effect, that is.

For more information on President Biden's immigration policies, click here.

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