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Cuomo announces continuation of health coverage for Dreamers

The DACA program was at the heart of the recent political showdown in Washington that shut down the federal government.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday, Jan. 23,

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018, that Dreamers in New York would be eligible for state-funded health care, regardless of any changes to the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Photo Credit: AP / Hans Pennink

Tens of thousands of young immigrants in New York who could lose their protection from deportation will not go without government-funded health care under a policy announced Tuesday by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The status of the so-called Dreamers — immigrants who were brought to or stayed in the United States illegally as children — was at the heart of the recent political showdown between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and President Donald Trump, who’s seeking to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA program, that shielded them from deportation.

Cuomo’s policy means they “will remain eligible for state-funded Medicaid” and the New York Child Health Plus insurance known as CHIP, “regardless of any federal changes to or termination of the program,” the governor’s office said.

Up to 42,000 DACA recipients in New York could benefit.

“The federal government’s failure to take action to protect DACA recipients is appalling, un-American, unjust and puts hundreds of thousands of children at risk,” said a statement from Cuomo. “Here in New York we will do everything in our power to protect DACA recipients and ensure they receive health care.”

Cuomo’s announcement comes on the heels of a deal that put an end to the weekend’s federal government shutdown. The deal was hinged on a promise by GOP leaders to allow debate in coming weeks on legislation that would provide a permanent substitute for DACA, an executive action former President Barack Obama signed to allow Dreamers to stay pending wider reforms. Trump and leaders of both parties have said they favor a legislative solution that would grant legal status to qualified Dreamers.

The governor’s office said the cost of continuing coverage would be included in the Medicaid budget, as Dreamers would qualify for the health aid “under an immigration category known as . . . permanently residing under color of law,” meaning they’ve had continuous residence in the country.

The office of state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) did not respond to a request for comment.

“This is a really meaningful decision,” said Max Hadler, senior health policy manager with the New York Immigration Coalition, a Manhattan-based group for immigrant advocacy. If the push to end DACA prevails, “on top of losing their access to work legally, many would have been losing their health insurance.”

Cuomo’s commitment “will not just benefit immigrant youth,” said Osman Canales, founder of the Long Island Immigrant Student Advocates, “but the state as a whole by having people who live here be healthier and continue the different treatments they need.”

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