WASHINGTON — The White House has ruled that young immigrants who will be allowed to stay in the United States as part of a new federal policy will not be eligible for health insurance coverage under President Obama’s health care overhaul.
The decision — disclosed last month, to little notice — has infuriated many advocates for Hispanic Americans and immigrants. They say the restrictions are at odds with Mr. Obama’s recent praise of the young immigrants.
In June, the president announced that hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children, attended school here and met other requirements would be allowed to remain in the country without fear of deportation.
Immigrants granted such relief would ordinarily meet the definition of “lawfully present” residents, making them eligible for government subsidies to buy private insurance, a central part of the new health care law. But the administration issued a rule in late August that specifically excluded the young immigrants from the definition of “lawfully present.”
At the same time, in a letter to state health officials, the administration said that young immigrants granted a reprieve from deportation “shall not be eligible” for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Administration officials said they viewed the immigration initiative and health coverage as separate matters.
Nick Papas, a White House spokesman, said the deferred-deportation policy “was never intended” to confer eligibility for federal health benefits. The White House describes that policy as “an exercise of prosecutorial discretion,” allowing law enforcement officers to focus on immigrants who pose a threat to national security or public safety.
The move might help Mr. Obama avoid a heated political debate over whether the health law is benefiting illegal immigrants. The possibility of such benefits has drawn criticism from many Republicans, including Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina, who shouted “You lie!” as Mr. Obama addressed the issue before a joint session of Congress in 2009.
The restrictions on health coverage may also save money by limiting the number of people who receive health insurance wholly or partly from the federal government.
Several immigration lawyers and health policy experts have criticized the restrictions, saying they will make it more difficult to achieve the goals of the health law and the immigration initiative, which Democrats consider two of Mr. Obama’s most significant achievements.
Jennifer M. Ng’andu, a health policy specialist at the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic rights group, said: “We do not understand why the administration decided to do this. It’s providing immigration relief to children and young adults so they can be fully integrated into society. At the same time, it’s shutting them out of the health care system so they cannot become productive members of society.”
西语裔维权组织——拉美裔全国委员会(National Council of La Raza)的医疗政策专家詹妮弗·M·恩甘杜(Jennifer M. Ng’andu)说，“我们不明白奥巴马政府为什么决定这样做。一方面，它向儿童和年轻人提供移民救济，使他们能够完全融入社会。另一方面，它把他们挡在医疗体系门外，使他们不能成为有生产力的社会成员。”
Under the new federal health law, insurance subsidies are available not only to citizens, but also to low-income immigrants “lawfully present” in the United States. That group will still include green card holders and people granted asylum.
The Pew Research Center estimates that up to 1.7 million unauthorized immigrants could eventually seek deferrals of deportation under the exercise of executive authority announced in June by Mr. Obama. Those immigrants will continue to be able to receive health insurance from employers, but many are likely to struggle to obtain coverage if they do not have a job that provides it.
皮尤研究中心(Pew Research Center)估计，根据今年6月奥巴马宣布的行政命令，最终可能有多达170万无证移民寻求暂缓遣返。这些移民将能够继续获得雇主提供的医疗保险，但如果没有附带医保的工作，许多人可能难以获得医保。
In the absence of a significant change in immigration law, young immigrants granted temporary relief from deportation have no clear path to green cards or citizenship.
Republicans in Congress have criticized the deportation deferrals as a form of backdoor amnesty for immigrants who broke the law by entering the United States illegally or by overstaying visas. They say Mr. Obama does not have the legal authority to do what he did — a claim also made in a lawsuit by 10 immigration law enforcement officers who are challenging the policy in Federal District Court.
The politics of the issue cut in several directions. The Gallup tracking poll shows Mr. Obama with a wide lead over his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, among Hispanic voters. At the same time, administration officials have tried to avoid alienating swing voters who are concerned about illegal immigration, and they have emphasized steps taken to secure the borders.