By Sam Baker - 12/03/12 07:53 PM EST
Federal healthcare programs should cover the children of illegal immigrants, a group of House Democrats says.
Democrats are asking the Obama administration to make healthcare available to children who are able to stay in the U.S. under the deferred-action immigration policy that President Obama announced earlier this year.
A group of House Democrats, led by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), is now pressing the Obama administration to open federal healthcare programs to children who receive deferred action under Obama's plan.
The administration has said DREAMers are not eligible for Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program or the federal subsides provided under Obama's signature healthcare law.
The lawmakers said the administration squandered an opportunity to give DREAMers access to the same healthcare options as American citizens.
"We believe this rule-making process offered an opportunity for the Department to enable these young people — Americans in every respect except on paper — to access the same range of healthcare options as the citizens they hope to one day become," they wrote in a letter to Obama. "Instead, they will be barred even from purchasing coverage in these markets with their own money."
Obama's healthcare law creates new state-based insurance exchanges where people who don't get coverage through an employer can shop for a private insurance plan, usually with a subsidy from the federal government. No undocumented immigrants, including DREAMers, can receive insurance subsidies.
Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is now treated differently from other avenues for deferred action, the lawmakers said.
"There is no principled reason to treat differently young people who received deferred action through DACA and any other person who has received deferred action," they wrote. "The unfairness of singling out DACA beneficiaries is also clear when you consider that many of them will now be studying alongside students with non-immigrant visas who have not been excluded from the ACA."
Lee's office is circulating a "dear colleague" request asking her fellow lawmakers to sign on to the letter to Obama. So far, signatures include Reps. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), Donna Christensen (D-Virgin Islands) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).