Undocumented immigrants who qualify for the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program will not be eligible for subsidies to purchase health insurance after officials ruled that the young immigrants would be excluded from the definition of “lawfully present” residents who qualify for the health care policy, the New York Times reports.
The administration also said that young immigrants granted a reprieve from deportation “shall not be eligible” for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. According to administration officials, they view the immigration initiative and health coverage as separate matters.
White House spokesman Nick Papas said the deferred-deportation policy “was never intended” to confer eligibility for federal health benefits. The White House describes that policy as “an exercise of prosecutorial discretion,” allowing law enforcement officers to focus on immigrants who pose a threat to national security or public safety.
The move might help President Obama avoid a heated political debate over whether the health law is benefiting illegal immigrants, and may also save money by limiting the number of people who receive health insurance wholly or partly from the federal government.
Several immigration lawyers and health policy experts have criticized the restrictions, saying they will make it more difficult to achieve the goals of the health law and the immigration initiative, which Democrats consider two of Mr. Obama’s most significant achievements.