California looks poised to especially gain from President Obama’s executive order on immigration, to be announced in a speech tonight. At 2.6 million, California has the highest number of undocumented immigrants in the country. According to a recent USC study, over half of those immigrants have been in the United States for over ten years, a group to whom Obama is predicted to grant new protections tonight.
The state also has a high percentage of undocumented parents of children with citzenship, another group widely touted as to be protected.
At the same time, while these new protections seem likely to protect against deportation and to ensure the ability to work, they don’t appear to include health care coverage. According to the Congressional Budget Office, of the country’s 11.2 million undocumented, 7-8 million will be left uninsured under the Affordable Care Act.
And that decision may end up affecting insurance sign-up for their legal-status children, as well. In a recent report the LA Times noted that the American-born children of undocumented immigrants seem reluctant to sign up for health insurance out of concern that it might lead to their parents being deported. Some 600,000 Latinos in California remain uninsured despite qualifying for care under the Affordable Care Act.
Last weekend Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, in a Google hangout interview with prominent Latina bloggers, addressed this point: ““Folks should not be scared....no questions will be asked, this is not an immigration issue.”
The President’s announcement today should reassure those children that their parents are safe. And yet, in denying those parents health care, this order effectively creates divisions within the very families it means to keep together. Are children likely to get insurance if their parents remain unable to? Even with the threat of penalties for the uninsured, probably not. As one such young person said in the LA Times story, “We’ve always done things together as a family.”
In his most recent column in The Tidings, LA Archbishop José Gomez writes about the need for an immigration reform that “enables our brothers and sisters to live with the dignity that God intends for them.” In taking away fear, Obama’s order is clearly a step in the right direction. But there are still more steps to take.