Politicians fail to connect the dots on health care and immigration

Politicians fail to connect the dots on health care and immigration

By Angel Padilla, NILC health policy analyst
AUGUST 4, 2016

Recently the Republican and Democratic parties held their respective national conventions, giving each a primetime opportunity to make its case to the American people as to why its presidential nominee should be picked to lead our country when voters go to the ballot box in November. Over the course of the conventions, two issues in particular received significant attention: health care and immigration. Whatever your position on either of these two issues, the conventions demonstrated that they will remain in national headlines and in political and policy debates over the next several months.

It’s not surprising that health care and immigration would be featured so prominently, since the two parties have staked out positions that are diametrically opposed to each other on these two important issues. What is surprising—rather, unacceptable—is that both parties continue to think of health care and immigration as entirely separate issues that can be addressed in isolation from one another. What was missing from the conventions—and what’s been missing from the national conversation throughout this entire election season—is a recognition that access to health care and immigration reform are not mutually exclusive but are in fact inextricably intertwined and must be addressed together.

If we are serious about addressing our nation’s broken immigration system, we must allow immigrants who live and work in our communities—and who contribute to our economy and our tax base—to live without fear of deportation and to fully participate in our society. Just as importantly, they and their families must be provided a real opportunity to succeed in this country.

Access to affordable health care is necessary for success anywhere you live. The American Dream is made possible only when we have the opportunity to keep ourselves and our families healthy. This means being able to visit a doctor when we get sick. It means being able to visit a doctor even when we’re not sick—so we can stay healthy. It means being able to get the medications, services, and treatments we need to get better.

After all, you can’t succeed if you get too sick to go to school or to work. If we deny immigrants access to health care services, then we are denying them a fair shot at success and at realizing the American Dream.

But it’s not enough to say that immigrants should be able to see a doctor, or that they shouldn’t be denied treatment due to a lack of health insurance. Getting necessary health care should also never bankrupt a family or force it to choose to go without other basic necessities. What good is having access to health care if a parent must decide between putting food on the table and paying for a visit to the doctor?

Health care access needs to be made affordable to everyone if it is to make a difference in the lives of all Americans and their families, regardless of where they were born.