ACA Expansion for ‘Dreamers’ Sparks Debate Amidst Immigration Policy Controversy

Approximately 100,000 immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, known as “Dreamers,” are expected to enroll in health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) next year, following a directive from the Biden administration released on Friday.

President Joe Biden’s move, though delayed and falling short of his original proposal to extend Medicaid eligibility to these migrants, will allow Dreamers to access tax breaks when they enroll in coverage through the ACA marketplace, which opens on November 1.

“I’m proud of the contributions of Dreamers to our country and committed to providing Dreamers the support they need to succeed,” Biden stated on Friday.

While this action may bolster Biden’s appeal among Latino voters, a crucial demographic, it has drawn criticism from conservatives regarding the president’s border and migrant policies.

The administration’s directive expands marketplace access to participants of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a move praised by Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, who highlighted the benefits of improving access to healthcare for this population.

DACA was initiated by former President Barack Obama to protect undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation and grant them work authorization. However, Dreamers were previously ineligible for government-subsidized health insurance due to not meeting the criteria of “lawful presence” in the U.S.

The administration opted against expanding Medicaid eligibility for DACA participants after receiving significant public feedback, citing delays in finalizing the rule despite its proposal last April.

Although up to 800,000 people were enrolled in DACA at one point, the current figure stands at approximately 580,000. The administration estimates that around 100,000 Dreamers will enroll in ACA marketplace coverage next year, with some securing coverage through employment or other means, while others may face affordability challenges.

While immigrants such as asylum seekers and those with temporary protected status are already eligible to purchase insurance through ACA marketplaces, Dreamers’ eligibility marks a significant development in healthcare access for this group.

Former President Donald Trump sought to end DACA, but legal challenges have kept the program in place temporarily. Vice President Kamala Harris emphasized the need for congressional action to secure permanent protections for Dreamers.

Critics, including Trump’s campaign spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt, have condemned the Biden administration’s decision, framing it as prioritizing illegal immigrants over American citizens.