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Immigration

California to Provide Full Health Benefits to Illegal Immigrants under Age 26

A Central American man and child visit the doctor at a Catholic shelter in Laredo, Texas, June 4, 2019. (Carlos Jasso/Reuters)

California governor Gavin Newsom has finalized a deal with the state’s Democrat-controlled legislature to provide full health benefits to low-income illegal immigrants under the age of 26.

Newsom’s office released an outline of the state’s 2020 budget Sunday night that calls for $98 million in new annual spending to make some 90,000 previously uninsured illegal immigrants eligible for the state’s Medicaid program, according to the Sacramento Bee.

The new spending will be offset by a fine on uninsured Californians similar to the “individual mandate” imposed at the federal level under Obamacare and subsequently reversed by the Trump administration.

Cynthia Buiza, executive director of the California Immigrant Policy Center, celebrated the expansion of health benefits for younger illegal immigrants but lamented the exclusion of elderly illegal immigrants.

“For California’s immigrant communities, today’s budget deal is bittersweet,” Buiza said in a statement. “The exclusion of undocumented elders from the same health care their U.S. citizen neighbors are eligible for means beloved community members will suffer and die from treatable conditions. And the exclusion of many immigrants from the Earned Income Tax Credit will perpetuate the crisis of economic inequality in our state.”

The provision of health care to young illegal immigrants represents a compromise between Newsom and Democrats in the legislature who have long demanded that the budget include funds to provide benefits to all California residents regardless of immigration status.

The budget, which must still pass a final vote in the legislature in the coming weeks, includes a total $213 billion in annual spending, which California Democrats believe they are well-positioned to cover considering this year’s budget surplus.

“The budget agreement we’re finalizing tonight builds on the strong budget proposal of the governor, while adding significant legislative priorities,” said Democratic state senator Holly Mitchell, who leads the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. “The budget agreement maintains our agreement to responsible budgeting, which includes the largest reserves in history — over $20 billion — finally paying off the remaining wall of debt from the Great Recession and making supplemental pension payments.”

Roughly 40 percent of the nation’s illegal immigrants reside in California and that number is rising as record numbers of asylum-seekers continue to arrive at the San Ysidro border crossing between Tijuana and San Diego each day. In 2018, half of all births in California were paid for by the state’s Medicaid program, Medi-Cal, and 30 percent of those babies were born to mothers in the country illegally.

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