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Another Voice: Leadership's needed to protect immigrants' access to health care

By Jessica González-Rojas

It’s hard to wake up Latinx in America today. We have a presidential administration that is committed to attacking our communities from all fronts.

We see women, children and LGBTQ individuals facing horrific conditions in detention centers; clinics providing essential reproductive care shuttering; laws being written to criminalize women, especially women of color, for making deeply personal decisions about their bodies; people who do not have Cadillac insurance programs being left without care.

It can seem like our politics are all doom and gloom – but the reality is our communities are mobilizing more than ever precisely because we know the stakes are so high.

Our communities have an innate power that comes from decades of standing strong, organizing and “echando pa’lante.” We are resilient and determined to forge ahead. And while some states are rolling back the clock on reproductive health and immigrant justice, there are also courageous leaders who are with us – who are emboldened to fight back for our communities.

We started the year off right with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s signing of the Reproductive Health Act, which codified Roe v. Wade protections into state law. We also achieved passage of the Dream Act, which for the first time offers undocumented students access to state financial aid and scholarships for higher education.

Today our legislators can prove their commitment to immigrant communities by supporting several pieces of legislation that would protect and expand health insurance eligibility for immigrant New Yorkers. Senate bill S3900 and Assembly bill A5974, sponsored by State Sen. Gustavo Rivera and Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried, would allow New Yorkers with low incomes who are not currently eligible for coverage because of their immigration status to be covered by the New York Essential Plan.

Senate bill S1809 would preserve Medicaid eligibility for New Yorkers with Temporary Protected Status who stand to lose their coverage if the Trump administration terminates the TPS program. The bill would also codify the preserved Medicaid eligibility of New Yorkers losing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which Cuomo announced through executive order in January 2018.

Together, these bills would provide a more immediate safety net for immigrant New Yorkers. They would also strengthen New York’s health care system by creating more universal coverage and access.

This legislation is essential to the well-being of so many immigrant communities that contribute to the economic vibrancy and cultural richness of our state.

Jessica González-Rojas is executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health in New York.

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