DREAMers in Arizona Won't Qualify For Medicaid

Undocumented immigrants granted two-year reprieves from deportation through the Obama administration's deferred action program will not be eligible for Medicaid benefits. [[MORE]]

The Arizona Republic reports that federal health officials from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sent a letter to state Medicaid directors saying that those awarded deferred action will not be eligible for Medicaid or the state's children's health-insurance program because the reasons given by the Department of Homeland Security for the deferred action program do not "pertain to eligibility for Medicaid." 

A spokesperson for Gov. Jan Brewer's office told The Arizona Republic that the findings, which addresses only federally funded healthcare eligibility, should make it clear that Brewer was correct to deny all public benefits to deferred action recipients. 

She signed an order on August 15 -- the same day the federal government began accepting applicants for deferred action -- saying the program "does not confer upon the any lawful or authorized status and does not entitle them to any additional benefits." 

Brewer, who championed Arizona's controversial immigration law and has said deferred action recipients will not be eligible for driver's licenses, added that no "taxpayer-funded public benefits" would be granted. 

While some undocumented immigrants have work permits and licenses, Brewer's spokesman Matthew Benson told The Arizona Republic that the deferred action program is different because ti was enacted by Obama and not Congress. 

But Phoenix attorney and chairwoman of the Arizona Immigration Lawyers Association Regina Jefferies told the paper she disagrees. 

There has never been an expectation that recipients would be eligible for federally funded benefits such as Medicaid and food stamps, she told The Arizona Republic, but they will meet state requirements for driver's licenses once they are granted a work permit. Those applying for deferred action are required to submit a work permit application. 

"People with deferred action qualify, not only under state law, but because the federal government has said they're not authorized to be here and work," she told the paper.

And, she added, federal immigration law gives discretion to the Cabinet secretary overseeing immigration, not to Congress, where deferred action is concerned.