Health & Spirit

Are Democrats helping Trump by promising health care to undocumented migrants?

Mark Z. Barabak and Noam Levey, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Health & Fitness

With a sharp left turn, Democrats are risking a backlash on an issue of raw emotional and political sensitivity: providing government health care to millions of people in the country illegally.

Ten of the party's nearly two dozen presidential candidates stood on a debate stage last month and, without hesitation, raised their hands pledging themselves to the policy shift. Most others in the field have also expressed their support.

"This is not about a handout," said South Bend., Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg. "This is an insurance program. We do ourselves no favors by having 11 million undocumented people in our country be unable to access health care."

The promise was consistent with the prevailing sentiment of the party's liberal base. But some worry the candidates have staked themselves too far left, boosting President Trump's reelection prospects.

"There's the question of how you provide health care for citizens of the United States and how you provide health care for residents of the United States," said Peter D. Hart, a longtime Democratic pollster, who sees an important distinction between the two.

"To make them equivalent is probably a position that is not going to sit well with the mainstream of the electorate," Hart said.


Trump would certainly agree.

The Democratic contestants hadn't even left the debate stage when he weighed in. "How about taking care of American Citizens first!?" Trump said on Twitter.

Days later, he elaborated. "We're going to stop it," he told reporters of the promise to expand coverage to undocumented migrants, "but we may need an election to stop it."

The debate over government health care for those in the U.S. illegally has long vexed policymakers, marrying fiscal concerns with the tensions surrounding immigration, both legal and illegal, and the demographic changes remaking the face of the country.


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