Guest Editorial: The Next Step in Immigrant Rights

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California has been on a roll when it comes to immigrant rights.

We limited collaboration between ICE and local law enforcement, passed drivers licenses for our undocumented community, and most recently allocated funds to provide legal representation to unaccompanied migrant children.

In the coming months, California will be in the position of taking the next big step toward advancing the rights of immigrants in the form of the Health for All Act, which would provide comprehensive access to preventative health care to undocumented people by opening access to MediCal and creating a health exchange marketplace mirroring Covered California.

Health for All carries the promise of positively impacting the physical, psychological and financial health outcomes of millions of California families.And in the process it would reduce the state’s health expenses. Although the bill was first introduced earlier this year, it died on the state senate’s Appropriations Committee due to indecisiveness on the question of how to fund this investment. When the bill is reintroduced this December, the funding question will again be the major hurdle to its passage, but the solution is simple: funding for the Health for All Act should come from the state’s general fund which undocumented immigrants are already contributing to year after year.

We should invest in Health for All with monies from the general fund.

Besides unconfirmed rumors that state officials would like to show Californians the symbolism of undocumented taxpayers shouldering the bulk of the cost through targeted fees to AB 60 driver licenses and taxes on remittances, no substantial reasons have been given about why the general fund should remain untouched.

Not only would targeted fees amount to a double tax on already tax paying immigrant families, it would also be a disservice to Californians’ commitment to a stronger public health system and growing acceptance of undocumented residents as a key part of California communities. According to an October poll, a majority of California voters support extending access to current health insurance programs to undocumented immigrants. This includes MediCal, the state’s health exchange, and subsidies offered under Covered California.

This fact and the long term payoff of a less porous health safety net hasn’t been lost on local officials, with progressive LA County enacting My Health LA to provide free primary care to its low income undocumented residents through its community clinic system. At the other end of the political spectrum, even conservative Fresno County, when given the opportunity to do so, voted to continue providing undocumented immigrants access to its Medically Indigent Services Program (MISP).

We have made notable advancements for immigrant rights in California. Extending access to existing health care programs to undocumented immigrants using money from the existing general fund will be one of the biggest. It would definitively place California in league of its own as a state that recognizes the vast contributions immigrants make to the economy. Most important of all, it would place the on the path toward recognize that health care is a human right regardless of immigration status.

Faby Jacome is a Pre-Med student and a member of the Orange County Immigrant Youth United. Follow Faby on Twitter: @FabyJacome

Ramon Campos studies Ethnic Studies in Santa Ana College and is a member of the Orange County Immigrant Youth United. Follow Ramon on Twitter: @MC_SuchNSuch

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