Why advocate says it’s a big deal 100K ‘Dreamers’ could soon buy ACA health insurance for 1st time

The new Biden administration rule makes DACA recipients eligible this fall. Asylum seekers and those with temporary status could already buy in the ACA Marketplace.

By Laura RiceMay 9, 2024 10:31 am, , , , ,

The Biden administration says it expects about 100,000 DACA recipients, or “Dreamers,” who were brought to the U.S. as children will sign up for health care through the Affordable Care Act marketplace.

Others among the total group of about 600,000 may already be getting health care through work, or still may not be able to afford a plan.

Antonio Arellano – a Midland/Odessa-based advocate with the young voter mobilization group NextGen America, and a former DACA recipient himself – joined the Standard with more. Listen to the interview in the player above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: How big of a deal is this?

Antonio Arellano: Removing barriers to access is the right step in the right direction.

The removal of the provision of DACA recipients’ eligibility to the Affordable Care Act coverage is a significant step towards dismantling the barriers that have historically prevented marginalized communities from accessing essential services.

With this rule change, over 100,000 young people will gain access to vital health care services, providing overall well-being and economic security that they so desperately yearn for.

Have you heard stories about people delaying health care or making other hard choices because of their lack of insurance?

Oh, absolutely.

I mean, as a former undocumented immigrant in this country, I know how difficult it is. And I’ve seen my family struggle with making a decision of seeking treatment or continuing to operate under a system that does not allow us access to health care.

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This is less than what the Biden administration promised, which was also to make DACA recipients eligible for Medicaid. Are you and others still pushing for more?

Look, continued advocacy for Dreamers is a top priority. While the ACA announcement is a cause for celebration, it is crucial to recognize that it’s just one piece of the puzzle.

President Biden and Vice President Harris must continue to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. And as a former DACA recipient, I urge Congress to prioritize the passage of legalization that provides permanent protections and stability for Dreamers and their families.

The Trump administration challenged the DACA program, and things were pretty uncertain for a while. What do you see as the current top priorities for Dreamers?

Living in limbo is a nightmare, and that’s exactly what DACA recipients have had to endure over the last 12 years.

This year will mark the 12th year anniversary of DACA, where President Barack Obama stood in the Rose Garden and offered this executive order as a temporary solution to give Congress. He said, “a little bit more time” and “to advance protections for recipients.”

It’s been 12 years since that, and we haven’t seen a permanent solution. It’s well overdue to make sure that we’re prioritizing young Americans who are contributing in every other way to this country and are just seeking to be recognized as fully human. We need to make sure that we’re injecting humanity back into the immigration conversation and make sure that we’re not losing sight of the individuals, the dreams, the aspirations that are intertwined with this conversation.

It should be said that this announcement from the Biden administration is happening not long before November elections. In your current role, you’re working with young voters from a variety of backgrounds, and a lot of folks really seem unenthused about a rematch between Trump and Biden. Is that something you’re encountering?

Absolutely. The political landscape is bleak, to say the least. And young voters are not enthusiastic about the top of the ticket.

But what polling shows is that they are very excited about mobilizing behind key issues, particularly progressive issues that align with the direction they want to move the country in.

One of those is recognizing that health care is a fundamental right. And President Biden’s announcement underscores his belief that health care is a fundamental right, not a privilege. By expanding access to Affordable Care Act for DACA recipients, the administration is ensuring that Dreamers have the same access to quality health care as their fellow Americans, and this move aligns with what young voters are looking for in terms of providing dignity and respect to our immigrant community.

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