DACA recipients could soon gain access to affordable health care under Biden administration

Changes being proposed federally could soon impact Arizona’s nearly 37,000 DACA-eligible undocumented residents.
Published: Apr. 24, 2023 at 5:22 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program recipients could soon get access to affordable health care. The Biden Administration proposed to allow those brought to the United States as children the ability to enroll in Medicaid or the Affordable Care Act.

DACA recipients in Arizona contribute an estimated $83.9 million in federal taxes every year. That money is going toward the federal health insurance programs they may soon have access to. “I came to the country when I was six years old, I grew up in west Phoenix. I became a DACA recipient in January of 2013 and I’m currently a DACA recipient,” said José Patiño, Vice President Of Education and External Affairs, who knows all about barriers. “It was weird to me when I heard kids go to the hospital for regular check ups or go for physicals, that was just weird,” he said.

He prides himself in standing up against the injustices undocumented immigrants face, with health care being one of them. “You try always, because of the cost of it, to not actually go to the hospital. So anytime that I got sick, unless it was severe and I couldn’t handle the pain I would just stay home,” he said.

Patiño now works with the immigrants-rights group Aliento; before that, he was a teacher. He says at 26 years old, he finally qualified for health care through work. “I was actually taken care of and it was really surprising to actually go and have an insurance card and pay a deductible and that felt really good, it was a good feeling to have a protection.”

Before getting health insurance, he said he did what most undocumented people are forced to do. “It was really helpful to have pro-bono doctors look at you,” Patiño said.

Changes being proposed federally could soon impact Arizona’s nearly 37,000 DACA-eligible undocumented residents. It would expand access to coverage to include DACA recipients, which Patiño describes as life-changing. “There’s so many of us that sicknesses that for so long go untreated, by the time we go to the hospital it’s too late, when we could get it years sooner,” he said.

Arizona Republican Senator John Kavanaugh gave Arizona’s Family a statement over the phone, saying he “reluctantly” supports giving DACA recipients access to health care because he always felt it unfair that children brought here at a young age and brought by their parents illegally would not have access to benefits.

A spokesperson for Arizona Senate Republicans said unless the state decides to take action on this issue, they would not comment on federal actions.