GOP Lawmakers Urge Biden Admin Not to Fund Healthcare for Illegal Immigrants Under DACA

Ryan Morgan
By Ryan Morgan
July 13, 2023Politics
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GOP Lawmakers Urge Biden Admin Not to Fund Healthcare for Illegal Immigrants Under DACA
Roberto Martinez, a DACA recipient, speaks outside the Supreme Court in Washington on June 18, 2020. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

A group of 16 Republican lawmakers in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives is urging the Biden administration not to expend taxpayer funding providing healthcare for illegal immigrants under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) and Rep. Josh Brecheen (R-Okla.) organized a letter (pdf) to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, calling on him to abandon a rule that his department has proposed that would grant Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Programs  (CHIP), and Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace entitlement benefits to illegal immigrants under DACA.

Under current U.S. law, the healthcare programs are only available to people considered to be “lawfully present” in the U.S., but the rule HHS proposed would redefine the term “lawfully present” to include participants in the DACA program. DACA encompasses people who were brought into the U.S. illegally by their parents when they were children. DACA does not confer lawful immigration status on its participants or excuse their prior periods of unlawful presence in the United States but does shield them from deportation during their period of deferred action.

“By providing health insurance to DACA recipients, this policy further burdens programs intended to serve U.S. citizens and simultaneously encourages more aliens to enter our country illegally in the hopes of receiving similar protection and services,” the Republican letter states.

A proposed piece of legislation called the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act served as a framework for DACA. Lawmakers tried to pass this DREAM Act in 2009, 2010, and 2011, but to no avail. On June 15, 2012, then-President Barack Obama cited Republican opposition to attempts to pass the DREAM Act and announced his administration would instead exercise their own discretion not to deport people who entered the U.S. illegally as children, establishing (pdf) the DACA process.

During his time in office, Republican President Donald Trump tried to rescind DACA, but President Joe Biden has continued to uphold the policy.

NTD Photo
Advocates for immigrants with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, rally in front of the Supreme Court in Washington on June 15, 2020. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

DACA Ruled Unlawful

In October, an appeals court ruled DACA unlawful, finding that it conflicted with existing immigration laws like the Immigration and Nationality Act. The Republican lawmakers noted the October appeals court decision in their letter to Mr. Becerra.

The Republican lawmakers also argued that the Biden administration’s attempts to now allow DACA recipients to access the Affordable Care Act Marketplace break with assurances Mr. Obama made about the ACA while he was president.

In a September 2009 speech to Congress, Mr. Obama said the healthcare reforms he was seeking “would not apply to those who are here illegally”—a statement which at the time prompted Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) to shout “you lie” at the then president.

The then-Democrat-controlled House passed the ACA two months after that 2009 speech.

“The Biden Administration’s decision also undermines the promise made by President Obama that the Affordable Care Act would not provide healthcare coverage to illegal immigrants, which reflects just how radical the current administration has been on immigration issues,” the Republican letter reads.

The Republican lawmakers asserted that this new healthcare eligibility rule would cost more than $100 million in its first year, and at a time when costs for Medicare Hospital Insurance and Social Security’s Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance Program and are on track to be insolvent by 2028 and 2033, respectively.

“We should make sure federal taxpayer dollars spent on healthcare go toward those with a legal entitlement to those resources,” the Republicans wrote.

The letter was joined by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Reps. Bob Good (R-Va.), Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.), Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), Rep. Eli Crane (R-Ariz.), Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas), Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wisc.), Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Wisc.), and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.).

NTD News reached out to HHS and the White House for comment. Neither office responded by the time this article was published.

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