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February 10, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – The General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters is among 320 national, state, and local organizations to sign on to a letter calling on President Joseph Biden to restore access to the health insurance benefits of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to young immigrants with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status.
DACA recipients, often also called Dreamers, are U.S. residents who came to the United States as children with their parents and without legal documentation. Some immigrants who came as children have not received DACA status and are at risk of being deported to their native country. In many cases, the United States is the only home they remember.
The letter calls on President Biden to restore the access to ACA benefits to DACA recipients within the first 100 days of his presidency. Taking this action is critical, the signatories write, “for any additional delay in healthcare access during the COVID pandemic puts the health of DACA recipients, their families, and the wider community and risk.” Without access to those benefits, the signatories argue, the DACA recipients cannot obtain health insurance under Medicaid or CHIP or purchase insurance through the ACA or its health insurance marketplace.
Restoration of this healthcare benefit to DACA recipients is a matter of justice, said Sister Attracta Kelly, OP, an immigration attorney and Director of Office of Immigration Services for the Adrian Dominican Congregation. “So many of our DACA people are out there on the front lines,” Sister Attracta said. “They are the ones doing so much of the work just to keep the country going.”
Sister Attracta said that all people in the United States – citizens, residents, DACA recipients, and immigrants who have no legal status – should be vaccinated to keep the country safe from the COVID-19 virus. Her stance was supported in a recent statement by the Department of Homeland Security. The department said it supports “equal access to the COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine distribution sites for undocumented immigrants. It is a moral and public health imperative to ensure that all individuals residing in the United States have access to the vaccine.”
Sister Attracta held up the contributions made by people who live in the United States with no legal status. “We’re relying on them every day to do some of the hard work, [providing us with] food and all the other essentials. We don’t even begin to appreciate what they do.”
Sister Attracta also spoke of the need to reform the immigration system to make it more just, one that “welcomes immigrants and that keeps families together and allows people like those who are newly arrived and other people who have lived here for generations to more fully contribute to the country – which they would do if they felt safe.”
In addition, she spoke of the need to reunite families that were separated at the border. “Some of the parents are back in their home country and their children are here,” she said. “Clearly it is damaging to the parents, but it is way more damaging to the children.”
Sister Attracta spoke on February 2, 2021, hours before President Biden announced further steps to reform immigration in the United States. Among those steps were the creation of a task force to reunify the families separated at the border; development of a strategy to address “irregular immigration across the Southern border”; and re-establishment of a Task Force on New Americans to ensure a “fair and efficient” immigration system.
Immigration reform has long been an issue of concern for the Adrian Dominican Sisters. The Congregation invites all people of good will to speak out for immigration reform and on a number of social justice issues through its Action Alert page.
Feature photo: Sisters Judith Benkert, OP, left, and Maurine Barzantni, OP, speak out for justice at the border of Nogales, Arizona, and Mexico during the 2018 School of the Americas Watch Convergence at the Border. Adrian Dominican Sisters File Photo