On February 18, 2021, Senator Robert Menendez (NJ) and Congressmember Linda Sánchez (CA) introduced the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 (Senate version/House version). Importantly, the bill creates a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants living without documentation and takes steps towards making the U.S. immigration system more just.
The National Health Law Program appreciates the initial steps Congress and the White House have taken to put forth a plan to correct some of the wrongs with the U.S.’s approach to immigration. Yet, the bill excludes access to Medicaid and other health and social service benefits for undocumented individuals on the new path to citizenship. As an organization committed to health equity, we are deeply disappointed the bill drafters did not take the opportunity to advance health care access for all immigrant communities, such as eliminating the five-year waiting period on lawful permanent residents from eligibility for Medicaid and other federal benefit programs.
We believe access to health care is fundamental to a person’s ability to achieve their highest attainable standard of health.
People in the U.S. are eager for structural change. The current U.S. immigration system is in dire need of reform. It is embedded with hundreds of years of policies that perpetuate racism and xenophobia and deny immigrants and their families fair opportunities to thrive. Policymakers can and must correct that imbalance and create a system that encourages justice and opportunity for all. We look forward to working with Congress to ensure that it provides essential relief both to our immigration system as well as eliminating other long-standing barriers immigrants face in accessing health and other benefits.