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Young Immigrants Fight for a Place, and for Access to Health Care

posted Mar 26, 2013, 11:39 AM by Julio Zaldivar   [ updated Mar 26, 2013, 11:39 AM by Julio Zaldivar ]
Rob Waters
by Rob Waters
Prevention Institute
Mar 26, 2013

My family got some bad news last week. My 21-year-old niece, Caitlin, a student at the University of Texas, learned that she’d had a relapse of the leukemia that struck a year ago and forced her to undergo months of intensive chemotherapy. She endured that experience with pluck and grace and the leukemia went into remission. Then, last week, two months into a semester of study abroad in Spain, she learned her cancer had returned.

She quickly returned home and from the moment she got off the plane to resume her battle with leukemia, she issued an order to her parents: no moping and no tears. Once again, she is inspiring all of us, her family and friends, with her grace, courage and humor.

In one respect, Caitlin and our family are fortunate. Thanks to a key provision of Obamacare, she remains covered on her parent’s health insurance, as do some 3.1 million other young adults under the age of 26 who might otherwise be uncovered. That means she has access to excellent, cutting-edge treatment at one of the premiere cancer-treatment centers in the U.S.—and it won’t put my brother’s family into debt or bankruptcy.

For thousands of other young people, the situation is quite different. Oday Guerrero came to the U.S. at the age of 4 when her parents fled the violence and poverty of Tijuana, Mexico. Now 23, Guerrero became the first member of her family to go to college and last year graduated from UC-Irvine.

Thanks to the executive order issued last year by President Obama, she and as many as 1 million other undocumented immigrants under age 30 are no longer at risk of being deported. But they remain at risk of having health conditions go untreated. At the very moment when the U.S. is making its biggest effort ever to widen access to health care, undocumented immigrants are being shut out. They are excluded from the Affordable Care Act, ineligible to purchase subsidized insurance or to be covered by Medicaid.

Click here to read the rest at Forbes.com