Supreme Court Upholds DACA Program But Threats to Immigrant Access to Health Care Remain

The Supreme Court ruled last week to uphold executive action by the Obama administration establishing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Since 2012, DACA has provided work authorization, relief from deportation, and opportunities to pursue post-secondary education to about 800,000 undocumented young immigrants, or “Dreamers.” In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled on procedural grounds that the Department of Homeland Security failed to adequately justify its attempted rescission of DACA, and that the Department’s decision to end the program in 2017 was “arbitrary and capricious.”

The Court’s decision allows roughly 700,000 DACA recipients to breathe a temporary sigh of relief, but future executive action from the Trump Administration to eliminate DACA remains a threat absent action from Congress to protect Dreamers. While a temporary blow to the Trump Administration’s efforts to demonize and attack immigrant communities, Thursday’s ruling does not remove the uncertainty that Dreamers and millions of other immigrants live with every day under an Administration that continues to assault their dignity and personhood.

Anti-immigrant policy and rhetoric is a proven barrier to seeking health care, and has a negative impact on mental health and general health of all Latino Americans regardless of immigration status. The Administration’s illegal attempt to end the DACA program and its many other attacks on immigrants—including the 2019 public charge rule, the recently finalized Section 1557 rule rolling back non-discrimination protections for individuals with limited English proficiency, and a proposal from the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice announced last week that would make it more difficult for people to seek asylum in the United States—serve to discourage immigrants from seeking and accessing health care, including HIV and hepatitis prevention and care services. It is critical during these times that the HIV and hepatitis community stand with immigrants, advocate for marginalized communities, and support the rights of all LGBTQ people and people affected by HIV and hepatitis.