Health and Human Services chief Sylvia Burwell made an appeal for immigration reform and extending Obamacare benefits to DREAM-eligible illegal immigrants on Tuesday while promoting the health-care law.
Burwell was touting the upcoming Obamacare enrollment period, which begins Saturday, on a webcast with several Latina bloggers when she stepped outside her typical domain and advocated for a change in immigration policy.
“DREAMers are not able to be covered in the marketplace,” Burwell said in response to a question about whether families with mixed immigration statuses can get Obamacare coverage. “And this is an issue that I think is more than a health care issue — it is an immigration issue.”
“And I think everyone probably knows that this administration feels incredibly strongly about the fact that we need to fix that. We need to reform the system and make the changes that we need that will lead to benefits in everything from health care to economics to so many things — a very important step that we need to take as a nation,” the secretary said.
Only legal immigrants are eligible for Obamacare benefits, but pro-immigration groups have advocated that Obamacare benefits should be extended to illegal immigrants as well. A number organizations, including the National Council of La Raza and the AFL-CIO, have asked the Obama administration to mandate Obamacare exchange eligibility for DREAMers — illegal immigrations who are granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. (RELATED: The Left Is Asking For Obamacare For DREAMers)
“Everyone should come on [to the Obamacare exchanges],” Burwell continued, “And folks should not be scared, because this is not information…no questions will be asked, this is not an immigration issue.”
The L.A. Times reported this week that some legal immigrants are avoiding Obamacare exchanges out of fear that any family members who are in the country illegally will somehow be detected by their participation in the government program.
Hundreds of thousands of first-year Obamacare customers have already had their coverage terminated by the federal government this fall after failing to confirm that they are in the country legally.
Burwell also used the webcast to stump for additional states to accept Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, which just 27 states and Washington, D.C. have adopted so far.