Press Releases

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Latinas commend president’s reforms to immigration policy, urge further action for health & justice

Press Release
Washington
Loretta Kane (917.410.7242, lk@caminopr.org)

Latina health advocates remain deeply concerned about barriers to healthcare and detention of women and children

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) commends President Obama for announcing administrative reforms to immigration policy, including the expansion of administrative relief to potentially 5 million immigrants.

Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of NLIRH said, “We commend today’s announcement and join communities across the country in supporting the president’s use of broad legal authority to address record-level deportations. For too long, our families have been senselessly torn apart, and we are confident the reforms announced by the president today are an important step in the right direction. However, relief has yet to come for the 6 million or more excluded — including DREAMer mamas and papas, and many LGBTQ immigrants. We are also deeply concerned about unjust barriers to affordable healthcare, continued border militarization, and the detention of women and children seeking asylum.”

González-Rojas added, “With this announcement, the president has taken a bold and necessary step to recognize the humanity of immigrant women and families — and he can and should do more. It’s time to lift the bans on health coverage for immigrant women and families, including those granted administrative relief, and to put an end to harmful detention policies. Finally, we know that the responsibility to create lasting, comprehensive solutions falls on Congress. We look to the House and Senate to stop playing games with the lives of immigrant women and support the health of our families, communities, and economy.”

It is estimated that under the president’s reforms announced today, up to 5 million immigrants will be able to petition for a temporary stay of deportation and work authorization — enabling immigrants to remain with their families and live and work without the constant threat of deportation. Unfortunately, the reforms leave behind approximately 6 million immigrants, and the barriers may disproportionately impact LGBTQ immigrants given the program’s narrow definitions of family ties.

We applaud the reform of the flawed Secure Communities program, a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s interior enforcement policies that have undermined community trust in the police. Unfortunately, the U.S. southwest border will continue to be militarized and the administration will continue the shameful detention of Central American families fleeing persecution — including pregnant and breastfeeding women and children — in jail-like facilities.

Under the reforms, it is likely that those eligible for expanded administrative relief will be denied affordable healthcare options available to other immigrants with similar forms of relief. This decision could effectively deny millions of immigrant women the ability to participate in health coverage programs their tax dollars support, including affordable coverage options under the Affordable Care Act, as well as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for pregnant women and children in about half of all states. These restrictions on health coverage would mirror restrictions imposed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for those granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
The harmful impact of health coverage exclusions on immigrant women is well documented.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, 5.2 million women are living without legal status in the United States. Nationally, 63 percent of all undocumented immigrants are uninsured for healthcare, and access to health insurance coverage varies greatly by state. For example, undocumented immigrants living in states including Mississippi, South Carolina, New Mexico, and Texas experience an uninsurance rate of 75 percent or more.

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The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health is the only national reproductive justice organization dedicated to building Latina power to advance health, dignity, and justice for 26 million Latinas, their families, and communities in the United States through leadership development, community mobilization, policy advocacy, and strategic communications.