For some, a dream denied

The Supreme Court’s ruling to stop benefits to undocumented parents affects entire families

Montserrat Cortes is an Elk Grove area student.

When I was 10, I moved to Sacramento from Acapulco, Mexico, with my mother and sisters in search of a better life. I am now 23 and have been enrolled in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals for two years, a program that provides me with protection from deportation, a work permit and eligibility for Medi-Cal.

Unfortunately, because of the United States Supreme Court’s recent ruling on Deferred Action for Parental Accountability, the program will not be extended to include undocumented parents of citizens and residents. This is a hard loss for our nation’s undocumented families, especially for those living in California. Not only do undocumented Californians remain without the benefits that DAPA would have provided, but they also remain without access to affordable health care.

DACA has made some significant changes in my life, one of the most significant being access to California’s Medi-Cal program. I still recall the relief and excitement the day I received my acceptance notice. Having access to health care was important to me because I suffer from asthma, and I had not had a primary care doctor for 13 years.

Growing up, I lived in constant fear of triggering an asthma attack, which discouraged me from taking part in physical activities. On multiple occasions, my asthma attacks landed me in the emergency room—attacks that could have been prevented. If I had access to something as basic as a checkup and an inhaler, I could have lived a more productive, active and healthier childhood. As a child, the most critical years of my development, I lived without the ability to see a doctor. Taking steps to prevent and treat minor health concerns was not a reality for me. For 13 years, any health concerns I had either turned into full-blown emergencies or were left untreated.

I am happy to share that this is no longer the case. Through DACA, I have had Medi-Cal and the ability to visit a physician and receive treatments, like an inhaler. Up until recently, I was the only member of my family eligible for preventive care. And then just this past May, for the first time in history, California expanded Medi-Cal to include health coverage for all lower-income children, regardless of immigration status.

Thanks to this, my 15-year-old undocumented sister now has full coverage and no longer has to experience the stress that comes from not having access to care. My sister can see a doctor, get a checkup, receive vaccinations and access needed treatments.

For undocumented individuals and families, the fear of becoming ill or needing care doesn’t just come from not having access to treatment—the fear also comes from not being able to afford it and becoming a financial burden on your family. This is a fear that my younger sister, and many other undocumented children who now have access to Medi-Cal, will no longer have to bear.

My family has submitted my sister’s Medi-Cal application and we are eagerly awaiting her acceptance letter. Having access to health care will allow her to live a healthier and more productive childhood.

I am thankful to our elected officials and Gov. Jerry Brown for making this commitment to the health my community.

However, I hope that one day all undocumented Californians, including my own adult family members and sister—who will age out of Medi-Cal at the age of 19—will have access to health care so they can live healthy and productive lives instead of living in fear.