President Joe Biden announced Thursday that hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrant will be able to apply for Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges — a plan that will cost U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars a year.
The action will allow participants in the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, to access taxpayer-funded health insurance programs.
“They’re American in every way except for on paper,” Biden said in a video released on his Twitter page. “We need to give Dreamers the opportunities and support they deserve.”
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The action has generated significant pushback from conservative leaders that have been critical of the Biden administration’s weak response to illegal immigrants.
Then-President Barack Obama launched the 2012 DACA initiative to shield from deportation illegal immigrants who were smuggled into the U.S. by their parents as children and to allow them to work legally in the country. However, the illegal immigrants, known as “Dreamers,” were still ineligible for government-subsidized health insurance programs because they did not meet the definition for having “lawful presence” in the U.S.
Biden’s Department of Health and Human Services will try to change that by the end of the month.
The White House action comes as the DACA program is in legal peril and the number of people eligible is shrinking.
An estimated 580,000 people were still enrolled in DACA at the end of last year, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. That number is down from previous years. Court orders currently prevent the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from processing new applications. The DACA program has been mired in legal challenges for years, while Congress has been unable to reach consensus on broader immigration reforms.
According to Breitbart, the “Center for Immigration Studies researchers estimated that the cost of opening Obamacare and Medicaid rolls to illegal aliens would cost American taxpayers about $4,600 per illegal alien.”
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The program will cost U.S. taxpayers almost $3 billion dollars annually — nearly the entire annual budget of the U.S. National Parks service.
While there’s bipartisan support to enact some sort of protections for illegal immigrants brought into the U.S. as children, negotiations have often broken down over in debates about border security and whether an expansion of protections might incentivize teens to try to illegally sneak into the U.S.
The Horn editorial team and the Associated Press contributed to this article