While everyone has recently been focused on Romney’s 47% comment, I stumbled across an article on the front page of the New York Times that I found rather interesting.
Today’s front page had a picture of Mirna Mumm, one of 215 people who became citizens of the United States yesterday on the 225th anniversary of the United States Constitution. Thinking I’d read about that, I noticed the headline adjacent to the photo, “Limits Placed on Immigrants In Health Law” and decided to read about that instead (although I never did find anything else about the Constitutional Anniversary).
According to this article, about a month ago, the White House rather quietly ruled that the young immigrants eligible for President Obama’s deferred action program (or what people are calling President Obama’s DREAM Act) are not eligible for his health care overhaul. So for a little context, there are currently, there are two different DREAM Acts that are being talked about, in California particularly. The CA DREAM Act allows undocumented immigrants in college to pay in-state tuition and receive state and federal aid to attend college. Sounds controversial since people claim that since they are not citizens, there is no funding for them. Not true. High schools accumulate money for every student enrolled, regardless of citizenship status. That means that when these undocumented students try to get federal and state aid to go to college and are denied all the money reserved for them is still there. Furthermore, the estimated funding to give aid to all these students would only amount to about 1% of the $1.4 million Cal Grant program. While interesting and amazing that Governor Jerry Brown signed the two parts of the CA DREAM Act, this is not what the White House was talking about last month.
The DREAM Act by President Obama that was announced in June of 2012 defers deportation of young undocumented immigrants between the ages of 15 and 30 who have lived in the country for five years and maintain continuous U.S. residency without any felonies or misdemeanors. This could even allow them to hold work permits as well, which means that after college, they would actually be permitted to work. Obama’s DREAM Act should mean that these immigrants will be seen as “lawfully present” during their time in college, which ordinarily means they would be eligible for government subsidies to buy private health insurance. Except it doesn’t. In late August, the Obama Administration specifically excluded the young “DREAMers” from the definition of “lawfully present,” thus denying them the ability to better access private health insurance.
While initially upset, I can’t say I wasn’t entirely shocked. As it is, immigration and Obamacare are terribly controversial and combining the two is just asking for trouble. At the same time, however, how can we expect these immigrants to become productive members of society if we do not provide them the resources? With Obama giving such support to immigrants in America, why is he disallowing healthcare? He is helping himself by creating this executive order so he is no longer the president with the highest deportation rate, but he isn’t allowing these immigrants the rights he seems to have promised them by allowing them to stay here without fear of deportation.
Politically, it makes sense. As it is, Republicans argue that undocumented immigrants are a drain on our economy and are already upset that President Obama would make such a big decision on his own, especially since the DREAM Act has been held back in Congress for so long. Mitt Romney has already said during the primaries that he would veto the Dream Act because it “could create a magnet for illegal immigration,” and as the election draws near, the Obama Administration needs to appeal to all audiences rather than just the Hispanic/Latino vote which is already overwhelmingly in his favor. Sometimes politics just seem to get in the way of the betterment of the people. It feels very much like when Obamacare first came into being, when people were satisfied that something had been done, but it was not as extensive as people hoped it would be. Obamacare and the DREAM Act are steps in the right direction, regardless.