And it's expensive for taxpayers. The costs of providing people social services, including programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, and unpaid emergency room bills are absorbed into increasing healthcare prices and insurance premiums.
Many hospitals are cash-strapped and struggling to provide care, and several major public hospitals have closed over the last decades, leaving those without other care options to travel further or to skip treatment altogether. According to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Philadelphia General Hospital closed in 1977, St. Louis City Hospital closed in 1987, DC General Hospital closed in 2001, and Los Angles' Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital closed in 2007, partially due to a lack of adequate institutional safety nets, all of which had served particularly vulnerable patients.
It's important to point out that the president's Council of Economic Advisers has estimated that undocumented immigrants pay $80,000 more in taxes per person than the consume in government benefits over their lifetimes, reports the New York Times. Mitt Romney's Take
But James Edwards, a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, an anti-immigration group, says deferred action recipients should not be granted access to government-subsidized programs such as Medicaid or CHIP.
"It's a temporary program and to include them would cause a number of problems," he said. "It would work as a kind of a disadvantage to the lawfully present, the legal immigrants who abided by the rules."
"We're talking about finite federal dollars funding a number of health programs," he said. "And there's also the fact of 'What happens at the end of two years?' Say there's a new administration. Then you have a class of people who would've benefited for awhile but then all of a sudden it's taken away."
He added that 'none of that's to say that anybody would advocate depriving anyone of access to emergency care. Emergency care will continue to be available to the legal, illegal, and otherwise."
He pointed out that the healthcare law will increase funding for community health clinics, many of which serve undocumented immigrants.
Edwards isn't alone in suggesting undocumentd immigrants turn to emergency rooms for medical care. Mitt Romney recently suggested that the emergency room serves as a good substitute for the uninsured during a 60 Minutes interview.
"Well, we do provide care for people who don't have insurance," Romney said. "If someone has a heart attack, they don't sit in their apartment and die. We pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care. And different states have different ways of providing for that care."
"Some provide that care through clinics. Some provide the care through emergency rooms. In my state, we found a solution that worked for my state. But I wouldn't take what we did in Massachusetts and say to Texas, 'You've got to take the Massachusetts model,'" he added.
Ng'andu cautions against relying on emergency rooms, though, and says people need other options. Community health providers are a good start, she added, but there just aren't enough.
"Emergency rooms are used as a measure of last resort," she said, "and people are often more likely to come in sicker, with more exacerbated condition, and because of that, they're more expensive to treat."