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Paving the Path to Health Equity for DACA Recipients

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, established in 2012, was designed to safeguard undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. This program protects them from deportation while granting temporary and renewable legal work authorization

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, DACA recipients are three times more likely to lack health insurance, resulting in greater challenges accessing healthcare services. Such obstacles tend to place them at higher risk of exposure to diseases and financial burdens caused by health issues, thus limiting their capacity to pursue higher living standards. These obstacles are present despite the work authorization allowing them to engage in work and other productive activities.

As a step to address health-related concerns and promote health equity among vulnerable groups, the Biden administration constructed plans to expand government-subsidized health insurance targeting uninsured DACA recipients. Taking effect in November of 2024, this new policy will consider household income levels and access to employer-sponsored health insurance as the threshold to determine eligibility. Before this policy change, uninsured DACA recipients, although protected from deportation, had no access to coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Once the new policy takes effect, eligible DACA recipients will gain access to the ACA, allowing them to enjoy quality healthcare services at a more affordable cost. 

The DACA status grants immigrants legal protection against discrimination in various contexts, including the workplace, housing and the credit market. These provisions intend to establish a framework ensuring equitable and fair treatment of DACA recipients in line with fundamental human rights. The lack of access to basic, affordable healthcare directly opposes the original intent of the DACA program. Instead of preventing discrimination, it is bolstering it. 

The new policy to ensure eligible DACA recipients' access to the ACA would provide them with resources to address their health concerns, further ensuring their productivity as they pursue a higher standard of living. Thus, the ACA would prevent DACA recipients from suffering from unsatisfactory health conditions, making health a right instead of an unreachable privilege.

Prior to the proposal of this new policy, DACA recipients without employer-sponsored health plans had no access to any federally funded programs. The absence of health coverage offered by employers implies that individuals could face limitations in employment due to poor health conditions, with few options for addressing disease and other health-related conditions undermining their productivity and well-being. Exclusion from publicly funded programs could cut these recipients off from the only means available to improve their health.

 DACA eligibility enhances recipients' physical and mental health, especially for those with lower incomes. The new policy is a significant step toward further protecting those from the most underserved communities, ensuring their basic rights and paving their way to achieving life-changing milestones while pursuing their dreams in the United States.

While expanded access to healthcare brings more hope to the DACA community by better equipping them to pursue their aspirations, critics address the issue regarding the reallocation of resources. One concern is that these resources will be diverted from general Americans, as pointed out by the Trump campaign, which has called this move "unfair and unsustainable," and claimed that it tends to take resources and jobs away from tax-paying Americans. 

Including uninsured DACA recipients in federal healthcare programs could lead to a reallocation of resources, but not necessarily at the expense of the broader American population. Most DACA recipients receive healthcare insurance through their employer, and the new policy's objective is to assist the uninsured, who are consequently the most vulnerable, in addressing their most urgent healthcare needs.

Immigrants supply vital labor to the U.S., which is necessary for the economy to grow in the coming years. Expanded healthcare access could substantially enhance their preparedness, fostering individual well-being and contributing to growth at the individual level and beyond.

Acknowledgment: The opinions expressed in this piece are those of the individual author. 

1 commentaire

Adrian H
Adrian H
2 days ago

Hello Ellie,

Just as you bring up, this is both a good thing and a bad thing for the US at the moment, only if what is stated either gets walked back or never is implemented. The fact that undocumented working immigrants can actually receive any healthcare through DACA is good news, but I have heard and seen in certain circles, including some friends even stating, that, like you said, they do not want resources being allocated away from Americans already struggling as it is. However, I have had no real answer to give because of the loaded nature of this debate or, more accurately, already occurring implementation, so long as it is properly metered out and upheld, at least…

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