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Impact of ObamaCare & California Driving Privileges on Immigrants

This week saw the beginning of the individual-enrollment period for the Patient Patient and Affordable Care Act ("ObamaCare"). It also saw the passage in California of a law that would allow undocumented immigrants to receive driving privileges. How these two developments affect immigrants is yet to be seen, but it's not as simple as some would suggest.

For instance, undocumented individuals, or unlawfully present immigrants as they are also called, already do not qualify for Medicaid, which is expanded by ObamaCare. They also would not qualify for subsidized medical insurance that could be provided to them through each individual state's insurance exchange. However, ironically, ObamaCare specifically exempts such individuals also from the tax the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year found could be levied against those who do not comply with ObamaCare's individual mandate. While some unlawfully present individuals may rejoice by their ability to avoid that tax, others are hurt by the inability to receive subsidized medical insurance. Resolving one's immigration situation would enable such persons to be eligible for subsidized medical insurance and perhaps ultimately Medicaid altogether.

Regarding the passage in California of AB-60, the legislative bill that would extend driving privileges to undocumented immigrants, it is important to note, first, that the law will not go into effect probably until the end of 2014 because of the time it will take for the changes to be implemented and, second, that the driving-privileges cards issued will be different from driver's licenses. Therefore, in a way, once the new cards are finally issued, they will differentiate the cardholder immediately from regular driver-license holders. Exposing one's unlawful presence in such a clear way may not be acceptable to certain undocumented immigrants, and it will be a subject of debate how clear that differentiation will be made.

The below video also discusses the two recent events while ending with a summary of the current status of the Government shutdown and its effect on immigration-related services: