There are more than 600,000 people in New Jersey and around the country who have lived in the United States since they were children but are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents. These people are known as Dreamers because they are protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was created by an executive order issued by President Barack Obama in 2012. The DACA program protects Dreamers from deportation and allows them to work, but it does not give them access to state-funded or subsidized health care.
Proposed DHHS rule
That may soon be changing. On April 13, President Joe Biden announced a proposed Department of Health and Human Services rule that would make Dreamers eligible for Medicaid or subsidized coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s Health Insurance Marketplace. The proposed rule has bipartisan support, and White House officials expect it to be implemented by the end of April. This is an important development because 34% of Dreamers currently have no health insurance coverage according to the National Immigration Law Center.
Ongoing legal battles
The DACA program has faced several legal challenges. The program stopped accepting new applications when a federal judge ruled that President Obama exceeded his constitutional authority when he created the program, but existing beneficiaries remained protected. The Biden administration reinstated the program in October 2022 by turning DACA into a federal regulation, but that rule has also been challenged.
The proposed DHSS rule has been welcomed by advocacy groups, and it seems to have broad bipartisan support. This suggests that it will not be beset by the same legal issues that have thwarted previous efforts to provide Dreamers with rights that American citizens and permanent residents take for granted.