Immigrants brought to the United States as young children will be allowed to apply for federal health insurance programs.

The United States will allow some undocumented immigrants brought into the country as young children to access federal health insurance programs, President Joe Biden’s administration has announced, in a move that has been hailed as “expected since a long time”.

In a statement Thursday, the Biden administration said those enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program could apply for Medicaid, a health insurance program for low-income people in the United States. .

DACA recipients, also known as “dreamers,” could also access other services under the Affordable Care Act.

“They are American in every way except on paper,” Biden said in a video shared on Twitter. “We need to give the Dreamers the opportunities and support they deserve.”

About 580,000 people are currently enrolled in DACA, which was launched by former President Barack Obama in 2012 to allow recipients to live and work in the United States without fear of deportation.

However, the program has been heavily criticized by Republican lawmakers and a number of legal challenges have created uncertainty about its future.

The Biden administration has said executive actions such as Thursday’s announcement are part of an effort to “preserve and fortify” DACA in the absence of legislative solutions.

“While Congress has failed to act, the Biden-Harris administration has taken significant steps to protect the Dreamers,” the White House said in a fact sheet, including fighting legal challenges that “attempt to strip them of the only home they have ever known”. .

DACA participants were previously ineligible for federal health insurance programs because they did not meet the definition of having a “legal presence” in the United States.

The Department of Health and Human Services will seek to change those regulations by the end of the month, the Associated Press news agency reported.

DACA only applies to a small portion of the roughly 20 million immigrants living in the United States without official papers, and legal challenges have further restricted the number of eligible applicants.

During former President Donald Trump’s tenure, the government attempted to dismantle the program entirely.

Rights advocates and progressive U.S. lawmakers on Thursday welcomed the Biden administration’s announcement, especially in light of these recent efforts.

“We commend the Biden administration for taking action to rectify this years-long injustice so that more DACA recipients can access the care they need,” said Kica Matos, executive vice president of programs and strategy at the National Immigration Law Center.

“This decision comes as many DACA recipients experience adverse mental and physical health effects from experiencing ongoing, politically motivated attacks on the program,” Matos said in a statement.

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal wrote on Twitter that the decision marked “a step forward towards justice”. “Health care is a human right, and DACA recipients deserve to have access to that care like everyone else,” she said.

“Millions of Dreamers have called our country home since they were too young to remember anywhere else. They deserve EVERY opportunity to succeed and lead a healthy life here in America,” U.S. Senator Tina Smith also tweeted. .

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