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Protect Health Care for Immigrant Youth

 Last October, the Obama Administration announced that youth eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival status would not qualify for benefits extended under the Affordable Care Act. This excludes these young immigrants from accessing crucial preventative services, acquiring health care through the new exchanges, or receiving assistance from federal programs such as Medicaid or CHIP. As Jews, we are commanded to love the stranger, for we were strangers in the land of Egypt (Deuteronomy 10:19), and to fight for the rights of the vulnerable. Make your voice heard and urge Secretary Sebelius to reconsider this misguided policy.

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Background

In June of this year, President Obama acted to address the immigration challenges faced by nearly one million young people who were brought to the United States as undocumented immigrant children and who have since grown up here, stayed in school and have been law-abiding contributors to our communities. The President issued an executive order offering qualifying undocumented young people relief from removal and eligibility for work authorization. Although a legislative remedy passed by Congress would be preferable to executive action that can be overturned by future presidents, Congress has been unable or unwilling to pass similar legislation, known as the DREAM Act, for many years.  Now, these young members of our communities will have the ability to continue to contribute to the only country they have ever known as home.

A mere two and a half months later, however, the administration announced that these individuals, granted relief under a deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) provision, would not be allowed to enjoy benefits extended under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This excludes these young immigrants from accessing crucial preventative services, acquiring health care through the new exchanges, or receiving assistance from federal programs such as Medicaid or CHIP.
Jewish Values
Jewish tradition is clear on the treatment of immigrants, demanding of us concern for the stranger in our midst. Leviticus commands, “When strangers sojourn with you in your land, you shall not do them wrong. The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” [19:33-34]. This principle is echoed 35 times in the Torah. 
Jewish tradition is also very explicit about the importance of the community providing health care for its vulnerable members – we are commanded to “not stand idly by the blood of our neighbor” (Leviticus 19:16), and are told “whoever is in pain, lead him to the physician” (Baba Kamma 46B). When members of a society at large are ill, our responsibility expands to ensure that medical resources are available at an affordable cost.
Excluding DACA youth from ACA coverage limits and undermines both of these crucial principles central to our tradition.
Take Action
The proposed changes take the form of a Department of Health and Human Services regulation. This means that they are open to public comment. Make your voice heard and submit a comment to Secretary Sebelius.
For more information, please contact Eisendrath Legislative Assistant Charlie Arnowitz at 202.387.2800.

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