How Deportations May Be Hurting Obamacare Enrollment

Nearly a third of uninsured Americans are Latino immigrants, but most have missed the deadline to sign up for 2014 health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Advocates say immigrants are reluctant to sign up because they fear they will inadvertently expose undocumented family members to federal immigration officials.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement blasted out a memo stating that immigration agents will not use health insurance information to track down undocumented immigrants for deportation. Still, with deportations hovering around record highs, it seems many mixed-status families aren’t willing to take the chance.

“A lot of mixed-status families are afraid that if they enroll, that the government will come and divide up their family through deportation,” Daniel Zingale, vice president of the California Endowment, told Reuters. California Endowment is a health foundation that has spent millions in ads on Spanish language TV, radio, and newspapers to encourage Latino Californians to sign up for insurance.

In California, home to the largest Latino population in the U.S., 13 percent of online enrollees identified as Hispanic since October 1, and less than five percent of enrollments were completed in Spanish. These numbers are especially dismal as Covered California, unlike the notoriously buggy, has had a working Spanish-language website since October 1.


The sluggish enrollment isn’t just bad news for Latinos who are risking their health, but also for the law that depends on their enrollment. Latinos are younger than the general population and less likely to be insured, so adding them to the insurance pool could help offset the costs of insuring elderly and sick people.

Polls show that Latinos overwhelmingly support Obamacare. However, as the Obama administration continues deporting record numbers of immigrants, deportation is becoming the chief concern for many families. According to one recent study, Latinos and Asian immigrants believe deportation relief is more important than a path to citizenship. Generally strong supporters of Obama, Latinos registered dramatically low approval ratings for the president in November, dropping 23 points over the past year as immigration reform was stalled once again and deportation rates stayed strong. Perhaps sensing this disappointment from a crucial voting bloc, 30 members of Congress, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, have called on Obama to halt most deportations.