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Health Care Access Denied for Immigrants Granted Temporary Legal Status Through DACA

by Abby Lance, Federal Policy Intern

Early this summer the Obama administration announced a new executive policy on immigration, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA allows young people meeting specific qualifications to apply for a two year deferment of deportation, during which time they are granted legal status and eligible to apply for work visas and long term legal status. On August 30, the administration excluded individuals with temporary legal status through DACA from federal healthcare programs, including Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), altering previous administration policy for individuals granted deferred status.[1]

To be eligible for DACA, individuals must be between the ages of 15-30; have entered the country before age 16; be enrolled in high school or have a high school diploma, a GED, or veteran status; have lived in the U.S. for five continuous years; and not have committed either a felony offense, three misdemeanor offenses, or be considered a threat to national security.[2] Approximately 1.7 million young people are expected to receive DACA status,[3] and under the new exclusion would not have access to the same health care as others who have received temporary legal status through discretionary deferred action measures.[4] Though health exchanges under ACA will not go into effect until 2014, there are other elements of ACA, such as women’s health prevention services, that will not cover DACA-status individuals. Additionally, pregnant women under DACA-status will not be eligible for health care services under Medicaid, and children will be unable to get services through Medicaid and CHIP. This will drastically reduce the options of healthcare for pregnant women, and may leave them unable to receive any pre- or post- partum care. All of the young women with DACA status may be unable to access important reproductive health care such as: cervical and breast cancer screening and treatment, family planning services, and HIV/AIDS testing and treatment.[5]

The administration has stated that the purpose of DACA is to allow the Department of Homeland Security to focus resources on cases which pose some threat to our nation’s security. According to the administration, despite previous polices relating to deferred status, the exclusion from health care is an extension of the fact that the policy was not created to provide access to healthcare.[6] Immigration rights organizations and health care and sexual health access advocacy organizations, including SIECUS, have called upon the administration to reverse the health care exclusion policy and ensure equal access to essential health care services for those young people granted deferred status through DACA.

Information on DACA eligibility is available on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Serviceswebsite. Additional information is also available through United We Dream.

[1]“Federal Register Volume 77, Number 169,” U.S. Government Printing Office(30 August 2012)accessed September 24, 2012,

[2]Janet Napolitano, Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion with Respect to Individuals Who Came to the United States as Children, (15 June 2012), accessed September 24, 2012,

[3]Jeffrey Passel and Mark Hugo Lopez, Up to 1.7 Million Unauthorized Immigrant Youth May Benefit from New Deportation Rules, Pew Research Center (14 August 2012), accessed September 24, 2012,

[4]Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Reproductive Justice, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (September 2012).

[5]“Federal Register Volume 77, Number 169.”