In June of 2012, President Obama granted temporary amnesty to young illegal immigrants who came to this country as children. This “amnesty” affected approximately 1.2 million undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before age 16 and have been residents here for at least five years. Immigrant advocacy groups saw this as a positive move on the part of the Obama Administration. But when the Supreme Court allowed Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) to stand, giving millions of uninsured Americans affordable health insurance coverage regardless of employment and pre-existing conditions, the law left out those illegal immigrants under the new temporary amnesty.
While by definition the new Affordable Care Act includes anyone “lawfully present” as eligible for government subsidies to buy health insurance under the program, new rules issued by the Administration in late August specifically exclude illegal immigrants under amnesty. The potential 1.2 million young people covered under the amnesty will only be able to get health insurance under the new law if they have jobs that are not required to provide health insurance.
This is an odd move by the Obama Administration, and one that is probably politically motivated. One of the biggest fears Americans have about the ACA is that it would include illegal immigrants in its coverage, and therefore would invite even more people to immigrate illegally to the U.S., not just for jobs, but to get healthcare.
The problem with illegal immigrants and even those living as legal residents in this country—under amnesty or not—is that they cannot vote, not until they become citizens. And contrary to popular belief, many Latinos who are U.S. citizens and have been living in this country for generations do not necessarily feel sympathetic to the plight of illegal immigrants. U.S. Latinos see amnesty and health benefits for illegal immigrants as more of a symbolic gesture, and not so much as an actual solution. Obama needs the Latino vote, and this vote comes from U.S. citizens who are Latino. The only voice illegal immigrants have in this country is that of advocacy groups.
But Obama, who according to recent polls has an approximate lead of 68% over Romney by likely Latino voters, can include wording on the ACA after he gets re-elected. As some immigrant advocacy groups have pointed out, it doesn’t make sense to give amnesty to a million young people and then deny them the right to the same affordable health care granted to anyone “lawfully present” in the country. Perhaps Obama has an ace in his sleeve and will reveal his cards during his second term. Politics are politics, and Obama is a master politician. What matters to him now is to get re-elected. He still has to debate Mitt Romney, and many undecided voters will be watching. The immigration issue, and illegal immigrants getting a free ride on U.S. citizen’s tax dollars is a hot potato issue for both Anglo and Latino voters.