Many immigrant families are wary of putting in an application for health insurance that is subsidized by the US government thanks to President Barack Obama’s new health care law as they fear that including personal information will draw the attention of immigration authorities. While undocumented immigrants cannot participate in the system, many have legal relatives who are eligible.
The health care overhaul has been Obama’s most significant domestic achievement and immigrant families are important to this success. The US government has been trying to assure families that any information they give will not be sent to enforcement agencies, an effort that has resulted in changes to the main health care website and immigration authorities sending a memo promising not to pursue anyone based on insurance paperwork.
Nonetheless, many families remain so worried that they feel it is better for members to go without coverage than risk others being deported because of personal information they give to a federal agency. “They are afraid,” says 22-year-old Houston man Adonias Arevalo, whose parents shared their fears with him over the information he put on his own application. “The majority of families, they know it’s something they need to do. They’re just afraid of putting themselves out like that.”
Around a third of the almost 40 million people who live in the United States but were not born there do not have health insurance. Nine million are part of immigrant families that have at least one member who has citizenship.