Author ORCID iD

Document Type


Publication Date



Since 2012, beneficiaries of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) have enjoyed a certain normalization, however tenuous, of their status in the United States: they can legally work, their removal proceedings are deferred, and they cease to accrue unlawful presence. Regarding subsidized health coverage, however, DACA beneficiaries remain on the outside looking in. Although other deferred action beneficiaries are eligible for benefits through Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the Affordable Care Act, the Obama Administration specifically excluded DACA beneficiaries. This decision undermines DACA’s goal of legitimizing beneficiaries’ presence in the United States. From a health policy perspective, it weakens efforts to improve health care equity, health care system efficiency, and public health. Changed circumstances in immigration and health policy justify a change in the policy excluding DACA beneficiaries from subsidized health coverage. It is no longer necessary to subordinate health-related interests to the decade-old, constrained choices of immigration policymakers. As a necessary stopgap on the way to immigration reform and health reform, the Biden Administration should eliminate the DACA carveout and extend the benefits of subsidized health coverage to all deferred action beneficiaries. The DACA carve-out is a useful case study illustrating how value-laden notions of deservingness in the laws governing eligibility for subsidized health care create systemic costs in the health care system and can harm public health.

Publication Title

California Law Review Online