Joe Biden, at the time as former Vice President, speaks to a Connecticut crowd in 2018.
Joe Biden, at the time as former Vice President, speaks to a Connecticut crowd in 2018. Credit: Christine Stuart / CTNewsJunkie

Connecticut advocates and lawmakers applauded a move by President Joe Biden Thursday to expand health care coverage to DACA recipients, but said it doesn’t go far enough. 

The DACA program, established in 2012 under the Obama administration, provides temporary protection from deportation and work authorization to young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children without proper documentation. Over 600,000 individuals, often referred to as “Dreamers,” have benefited from the program, allowing them to pursue education, work, and contribute to their communities.

Until now, DACA recipients faced significant barriers to obtaining health insurance coverage, leaving them vulnerable to health risks and financial strain.

Under Biden’s plan, DACA recipients will become eligible to apply for Medicaid and to enroll in Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges.

“For more than a decade, Dreamers in Connecticut and across the country have done everything we’ve asked of them,” U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, said Thursday. “ They’ve gone to school, gotten jobs, paid taxes, and contributed to their local communities in extraordinary ways. I’m glad to see the Biden administration taking this step to finally get these kids access to quality, affordable health care, and I’m going to keep fighting for their pathway to full citizenship.”  

Camila Bortolleto, co-director of CT Students for a Dream and DACA recipient, said it’s a step in the right direction. 

“This rule change by the Biden administration is a major victory for DACA recipients and their families and corrects an injustice from the Obama-era that denied access to health care through the ACA marketplace as well as Medicaid to thousands of DACA recipients in Connecticut,” Bortolleto said. “It is a step in the right direction and shows that expanding access to health care is the right thing to do. The Biden Admin understands this and now our CT elected officials must finish the job.”

Bortolleto is also a member of the HUSKY for Immigrants Coalition which is pushing for health care coverage in Connecticut for all undocumented immigrants up to the age of 25. 

She said that’s why they rallied at the Connecticut State Capitol Thursday. 

She pointed out that DACA recipients are only a small portion of immigrants in Connecticut. 

She said DACA is an outdated program that is no longer taking new applications, which means many youth are not eligible for the program or its benefits. She said that’s why it’s so important for Connecticut to take action. 

However, there is stiff competition for the money available at the state level. 

Sen. Cathy Osten, a Sprague Democrat who co-chairs the Appropriations Committee, said that public awareness of billions in budget surpluses have fueled spending expectations that her committee can not possibly meet as a result of fiscal guardrails like a cap on state spending.

“I think everybody’s going to be disappointed,” Osten said. “I think there isn’t a group out there that’s going to be thrilled with what we do.”

The bill, which advanced in March out of the Human Services Committee, would only cover undocumented children up to the age of 18.