Immigrants Are Paying the Price for Obamacare

Barack Obama sacrificed them to push his signature law.


Democrats spent the first year of Donald Trump's presidency trying to save ObamaCare from his assaults. They'll spend the second

Fibonacci Blue on / CC BY

year trying to save immigrants. And if they want to point fingers at anyone for having to ward off this one-two punch, they should aim them squarely at former President Barack Obama.

The single biggest blunder of Obama's presidency was his decision to prioritize a makeover of America's health-care system over an immigration overhaul. Obama's health-care plan had zero bipartisan support, while reworking immigration had considerable enthusiasm on both sides of the aisle. By choosing health care, Obama rendered both programs politically vulnerable.

Earlier this week, a California judge issued an injunction barring President Trump from scrapping Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that gave DREAMers, immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as minors but have grown up as Americans, a temporary reprieve from deportation. Not only did the judge tell Trump to ice his plans to throw DACA recipients out of the country, as he was planning to do if Congress did not pass a law offering them permanent protections by March, but to renew the DACA status of DREAMers who already have it. But Democrats shouldn't get too excited by the order, as the Trump administration will surely appeal — and it could well prevail in a higher court.

This means that if they can't work something out with the president and Republicans, DREAMers will face deportation. But the ransom that Trump will demand in exchange for leaving DREAMers alone is shaping up to be substantial. Pay no attention to his recent comments at a White House meeting with congressional leaders where he said he wants an immigration deal filled "with love" — this is empty posturing. If he were serious, he wouldn't have scrapped, just the night before in fact, the special status that 200,000 El Salvadorian refugees have enjoyed to live in the United States since they were displaced by an earthquake in 2001. Ditto for Haitian and Nicaraguan refugees. Nor would Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, have announced mere hours after Trump's love fest that he will not allow a DREAMer fix to be attached to a spending bill.

Democrats are threatening to shut down the government if Trump doesn't back off. They may prevail if they muster an extraordinary show of unity, but in reality, they are playing a weak hand — which is evident from the modesty of their demands. Already, they have quietly made concessions, like dropping all talk about legalizing anyone other than the nearly 1 million DREAMers — leaving the other roughly 9 million undocumented immigrants vulnerable to deportation, even if they have committed no crimes and have deep roots in the United States. All hope for a usable guest worker program for Mexicans is gone, as is the notion of expanding the H-1B visa program for technology-related work.

Trump, meanwhile, is demanding $33 billion over 10 years for enhanced border security, $18 billion of which will go toward building the Great Wall of Trump. Indeed, he doubled down on his demand for this wall in a tweet after his White House kumbaya session. In addition, he wants Congress to pass laws requiring employers to use E-Verify to check the work authorization status of all new recruits against a federal database. He has been attacking family-based immigration as "chain migration" and seeks to cut legal immigration by 50 percent and end the diversity visa program. He claimed at his meeting that he would "sign" whatever Congress puts on his desk and wouldn't demand "this or that." But what he didn't mention was the pressure he was putting on them behind the scenes to send him a nativist version of comprehensive immigration reform.

This could have all been avoided if Obama had picked up where former President George W. Bush left off on the issue, when he tried to push a major overhaul in 2007 that would have legalized undocumented immigrants with clean records. But thanks to the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina, Bush's popularity was at its lowest by then, and the bill got run out of town by the anti-amnesty brigade led by Rush Limbaugh.

Obama could have run with the momentum that Bush had built to push immigration reform over the finish line, especially since there were plenty of Republicans then who were willing to play ball with him to finish what Bush had started. Instead, Obama squandered his political capital on the ObamaCare battle.

Was it worth it?

The law is constantly in Republican crosshairs. Trump has scrapped the individual mandate that compels people to buy coverage or face a fine—the central pillar that keeps ObamaCare standing. Without it, ObamaCare exchanges may plunge into a so-called "death spiral," as the young and healthy pull out of the insurance market, leaving a sicker population to face higher premiums.

And even at its peak, ObamaCare never came close to delivering on its promise of universal coverage. There were 35 million uninsured Americans when it was passed in 2010. "Since then, on balance," notes Cato Institute's health-care policy analyst Michael Cannon, "it may have expanded coverage to 15 million previously uninsured."

In other words, Obama gave up on legalizing 11 million undocumented immigrants in exchange for extending precarious and substandard health-care coverage to 15 million Americans. From a purely utilitarian calculus, it is unclear that this was a good tradeoff.

Worse, Obama embraced a strategy of appeasement toward immigration hard-liners, having spent all his political capital in the ObamaCare fight. He doubled down on draconian enforcement, setting deportation records for removing and returning immigrants. The bipartisan Gang of Eight bill that he backed in 2013 still went down in flames, leaving him with no options but to use his executive authority to extend temporary legal status to DREAMers' parents in 2014, just as he had done previously for the DREAMers. Without legislative backing, however, the move only enraged immigration hard-liners further, without giving DREAMers or their parents any real protection against restrictionist wrath.

To be sure, even if Obama had played his cards right, he wouldn't have been able to stop Trump from using his executive authority to slam refugees, enact travel bans, and assault high-skilled immigrants in myriad ways. But without DREAMers as pawns, Trump would have been begging Democrats for funding for his loopy wall, and the rest of his agenda would have been a non-starter.

Instead, Democrats are now begging him to simply leave DREAMers alone for good. If they fail, all they'll have to show for Obama's "historic" presidency will be a sputtering health-care law and mass deportations. At this stage, even the most die-hard liberal supporters should be asking themselves: Was ObamaCare really worth it?

A version of this column appeared in The Week


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  1. “””””just the night before in fact, the special status that 200,000 El Salvadorian refugees have enjoyed to live in the United States since they were displaced by an earthquake in 2001.””‘”

    Its called Temporary Protected Status. Notice the Temporary part. Notice the earthquake happened in 2001?

    1. El Salvador is the most violent country on the planet.

      If we send back the folks with the temporary assylum visas, do we also send back their American born minor children? Do we deport American citizens to a “shithole” country?

      1. Shawn, the answer is simple. This wouldn’t and shouldn’t be the Government’s decision. These children of the illegals born on US soil are citizens, however, it is up to the parents what they think is best for their child. They may take them back to El Salvador where the child by rights can reenter the US any time, or they may make arrangements for them to stay here by any number of means. It would be the family’s decision.

      2. ABSOLUTELY! Ship their kids out with them… and can the bullshit about them being “citizens”.

        The whole idea of “birthright citizenship” is a misinterpretation. It was never intended to cover criminal aliens, consular staff or others without connections to America. “Anchor babies” should be tied to the flotsam and sent out on the next tide.

      3. Do we deport American citizens to a “shithole” country?

        No, just their parents. It’s up to the parents to decide what to do with their children.

        I think we ought to be nice enough to pay for the tickets of the children if the parents decide to take them along.

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    4. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.

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  2. “shithole countries”

    Such as India where people shit in the streets.

    1. And Oman where people shit into holes with splatter everywhere and the smell.

      1. And Canada, where people are Canadian.

        1. I saw Canada was strongly reminding TPS folks in America that they are not welcome in Canada either and that Canada will deport them, too, if they illegally enter Canada.

    2. They also dump their shit directly into their rivers.

    3. Actually, Trump was referring to Africa where 25% of the continent has no sanitary plumbing. (And AIDS-infected dudes rape infant girls because they think it cures AIDS). (And the #1 cause of death is AIDS.) (You know – AIDS, which jumped the species from ape to African when the Africans were chopping up the monkeys for bushmeat?)

      Yeah. THAT shithole.

      Worse, the AVERAGE IQ in Africa is below 65. (70 and below is considered “mentally retarded” by clinical psychology.)

      In India, everyone shits on the street, but their average IQ is 15 points higher… which makes them closer to being sapient hominids.

      1. Fuck off, troll

        1. He may be a dick about it, but those are facts! In America the average black person has an IQ of 85, which I imagine is somewhere around where they genetically top out given a better environment than the one in Africa. The fact that the average African American is 25% genetically white might help there too…

  3. Obama could have run with the momentum that Bush had built to push immigration reform over the finish line

    Momentum? Get real.

    The Bush/McCain/Kennedy immigration reform bill was dead as a door nail.

    1. Lefties don’t want any America-centric immigration reform.

      Lefties want immigrants to vote for them and they will cater to that special interest any way they can.

      1. Yeah! That’s why Obama was responsible for a dramatic increase in deportations and border patrol activities! Because he wanted immigrant votes.


        1. There’s some other branch of government that has hundreds of elected members…if only I could think of what it’s called…hmmm…

    2. Bush/McCain/Kennedy… that says it all right there. Yes, I remember the original push for amnesty labeled “comprehensive immigration reform”. It had odd things like a Z visa, but absolutely nothing in the way of relief for border states that had entire cities under siege. It had zero help for border residents who HAD to take a gun to work, because they never knew what might be waiting on them when they got home. Raising kids in the comeback zone? Might as well live in Somalia.
      No wonder Trump got elected, and beat back the early mountain of money assembled for Jeb – the DC establishment has fully shredded their credentials as Americans.

  4. How can Reason publish the garbage this stupid bitch writes?

    1. Looking for website hits by people stopping by to let her know how stupid the stuff she writes is.

    2. Perhaps… it’s like a train wreck: you hate what you see, but can’t look away. More importantly, we are sorry we read it much like the people who paid good money to see a clunker of a movie called Twister decades ago, and left the theatre pissed off that money was paid for any part of it. Man, I’m glad I didn’t pay to receive this piece… the birdcage would be too good for it.

      1. Dude, Twister was waaaaaaaay better than her articles.

  5. “Not only did the judge tell Trump to ice his plans to throw DACA recipients out of the country, as he was planning to do if Congress did not pass a law”

    BS Trump did not say he was going to deport them he said he may even reinstitute DACA, So quite with the lies. the TDS is crazy enough with out them

    1. But he should deport them. Every time we make an excuse for some criminal to profit by breaking the law, we encourage more criminals. And criminal aliens toting their youngins across the border isn’t petty larceny. 12 years of US education costs on the order of $150,000. Add in food stamps, housing subsidies, unpaid emergency room visits, welfare of all kinds, and the average criminal alien family is likely ripping off taxpayers to the tune of a million dollars or more.

      But wait – that’s not all. Most foreigners working here send a substantial part of their paycheck “back home”. So the US doesn’t get the economic stimulation of that money being spent in our economy. Instead, America is being bled dry by millions of thieves stealing American prosperity.

      Give them 6 months to get out. After that – death penalty.

      1. You’re too stupid for this trolling gig, fuck off

  6. The immigrants we have in the USA already should stop voting for “emocrats” [sic as from article]

    1. Emocrats may be a more accurate descriptor of the current minority party, given their interminable appeals to emotion rather than logic.

      1. Actually it is a shortened form of Emeticrats.

      2. That’s actually quite brilliant. We should make that a thing! They are all feelz and no thinkz. I’m going to try to remember that.

      3. Mommy values
        Feelz over facts
        Compassion and Control over Justice and Liberty

  7. I’m honestly not seeing any difference between the two on immigration. If Trump is a “horror”, she has to be able to clear Obama’s reality distortion field out of her head and admit that he was also a “horror” but she doesn’t seem willing to take that step. Instead she blames his obvious lack of giving a crap on being too distracted with Obamacare. Right.

    1. This rings true especially when you consider that Obama actually had more deportations than Trump has made so far, at least on paper. So again, Shika is full of shit.

      1. Sometimes I wonder if SD isn’t just an alias for some consortium of wobblies operating out of The New School, but reality is probably stranger than fiction [as usual]. But Lucius… your point shows brevity is the soul of wit, as always. Spot on.

    2. Why would we see much difference? Trump has focused on executive orders, but hasn’t flushed much out of various departments, which leaves the same perspectives, prejudices, and misanthropes in place providing the same bad advice to the administration as when flat out maoists were heading their departments. They are trained… and in need of deprogramming or replacement. This is why I don’t get too down on Tillerson: he is surrounded by the 99% that gave to Hillary in 2016 and was handed a krap sandwich right out of the gate. Come to think of it, anytime contributions fall outside of an 80/20 split we can be assured there is systemic corruption approaching the straight up nepotism of any banana republic you care to mention [with all the cousins working airport security, etc].
      On the bright side, it appears the China trade negotiations have shed light on… China helping deal with North Korea. That just might be the miracle of this administration, after decades of State department bumbling imbeciles plying their bad theories one on top of the other, when all along the simplest thing was in front of their face: money talks [and no, buying “friends” with foreign aid does not qualify – a nation like China needs to feel it won, and did so organically].

    3. You can’t blame Obozo. Obozo was black. Shikah knows, no black ever did anything wrong.

      1. And he was an immigrant–at least some people said that, on the internet, so it must be true–which of course means for Shikha that he could do no wrong either.

  8. Is the first paragraph missing the first letter?

    Please write all “the D” jokes below.

    1. Damn. It got fixed.

  9. If he were serious, he wouldn’t have scrapped, just the night before in fact, the special status that 200,000 El Salvadorian refugees have enjoyed to live in the United States since they were displaced by an earthquake in 2001.

    I’ve got a friend who was telling me last night about how she had moved to my town a few years ago, and had let her brother-in-law move into her old house temporarily because he was on rough times. The agreement was that it would be temporary, and in exchange for no rent or utilities, he’d labor at remodeling a few rooms before she put it up for sale. She and her husband would supply the materials.

    At first he worked hard, but eventually he realized that they weren’t watching, and he could get away with doing less and less. Until he stopped. Finally, after 3 years of living in the house, she and her husband told him “We love you, but you’ve got to get your own place. We’re kicking you out and putting the place up for sale.” He freaked out. How could she–and his own brother–do this to him if they loved him.

    What I learned from Shikha today is that those 2 had no love in their hearts when they kicked their family member out. If they loved him, they’d never have even threatened to do so.

  10. If not for Obamacare, congress may not have been handed over to Republicans. We might not be looking at a Trump presidency today.

    1. B.S.

      The PPACA was based on a Heritage Foundation policy recommendation. Obamacare was a conservative idea.

      The GOP just picked something they could spin as a horrible evil to rally their shrinking angry white base to the polls. If they didn’t have the ACA they’d have picked something else.

      1. “Obamacare was a conservative idea.”

        No. Some cons may have proposed similar ideas, but the program is pure fascism.

    2. The margin was thin enough, there are a number of items that could have made the difference.

      The biggest of course, was that Hitlery was completely unacceptable to any sane American.

  11. There’s a few important bits missing in this piece. First is… republicans also spent their first year trying to keep the ACA intact using the calendar as a weapon – the president gets nothing when congress is on vacation. And you know the perk of congress exempting themselves from this certified garbage only exists as long as the power of “…as the secretary shall determine” is preserved. Second is that the middle class [myself being a member] was being led to the slaughter by way of the ACA. Most of us saw deductibles go up, and in the past that meant premiums would go down a bit, as insurers had some of their risk taken off the table. Did that happen? No: most had premiums double [compared to 4 years ago] for the privilege of paying more, and some consumers who were not poor needed “subsidies” to boot. But wait, there’s more – the system was so rotten that Obama had to dish out subsidy money to the insurers to kick the can out of his term of office. There is nothing but a sea of pain regarding the ACA, and singling out a group is an obfuscation by itself.
    As for “undocumented immigrants”, well… those would be people [here legally] who had papers but lost them. Whatever we think about illegal aliens, we should not do violence to the english language and conflate terms. But that’s Shikha tipping her hand again as someone trying to pull libertarians to the fringe left. Tell me… why isn’t she writing for Mother Goose, The Nation or some such publication?

    1. You should read up more on the PPACA. You’r description here is full of gross inaccuracies. Whether you like the bill or not, you should criticize it for actual failures and not invented ones.

      The ACA created a new market for insurance. It was meant to operate as a “free market.” However, there was a lot of risk for early entrants into the market as they had no pricing history to help them set their fees. So the government guaranteed them, from the outset, some help to ensure minimum profits while the markets got up to speed. The payments were only temporary and they were baked into the bill from day one.

      The ACA premiums started rising because the GOP-controlled congress was signaling its intention to reverse the ACA and not follow through with government-made promises. So the private insurers started hedging their bets (wisely) by raising premiums in anticipation. As Congress and Trump started withholding the promised payments, insurers just raised prices to make up for it. The GOP was hoping people would be fooled into thinking it was the ACA’s failure and not their own trickery that caused it. So don’t feel bad that you, too, were tricked.

      “Undocumented Immigrants” is the polite term for “illegal immigrant.” They are exactly the same thing. Undocumented immigrants aren’t people who lost their documentation; they never had it to begin with.

      1. Yes the ACA created a market, but calling it “free” is a little perverse….

        “”Undocumented Immigrants” is the polite term for “illegal immigrant.”

        No, its word games attempting to legitimize those who enter or stay in this country illegally.

      2. Yeah, right. And next you’ll be telling us that Obozo didn’t illegal delay the more unpopular parts of the bill – or that the ratcheting action of the individual mandate didn’t hit high gear until after he was out of office.

        Obozo was a shithead. Obozocare is a shit system.

        1. U R A turd.

      3. ” As Congress and Trump started withholding the promised payments, insurers just raised prices to make up for it.”

        Interesting. Didn’t know Trump was Pres in 2015. Learn something new every day.

      4. I believe the euphemism used most often is “undocumented immigrant.” But that is often misleading. Sometimes they have documents –forged or stolen. And they are often not immigrants–intending to integrate–but simply aliens residing within the country.

        Of course, this toture of language lends itself to making drug dealers “undocumented pharmacists” and car thieves “undocumented drivers.”

        For the people in the “No person is illegal.” camp, I could be persuaded to use the term “unauthorized alien” instead of “illegal alien”. They are aliens and not immigrants, as they have not gone through immigration, and they are not authorized to be here. It is a simple statement of fact.

        The US Code, e.g. 8 U.S. Code ? 1324 – Bringing in and harboring certain aliens, uses the turn “alien”, with extended context such as “an alien [who] has not received prior official authorization to come to, enter, or reside in the United States”. So “unauthorized alien” might perhaps be the most accurate term.

        1. If you’re here contrary to the law, you’re here illegally, no?

  12. The single biggest blunder of Obama’s presidency was his decision to prioritize a makeover of America’s health-care system over an immigration overhaul.

    The Democrats have been lusting after control of the healthcare system for something like 50 years. In immigration, in contrast, the status quo of indifferent enforcement has long suited them just fine — lots of illegals working off book on the cheap, and politically beholden to them. They’d find it awkward to support outright open borders, even if it were politically viable. Far better to let things fester and support their welfare dependent illegal constituency through half-measures. See also, the Drug War.

    1. This is a libertarian site. So please note that “open borders” is actually something libertarians support. Democrats and Republicans don’t support open borders. Obama increased deportations during his 8 years, for example.

      1. While true (at least for certain values of “libertarian”), I don’t think the first part of that has any real relevance to what I said.

      2. “”open borders” is actually something libertarians support.”

        No. Libertarians support property rights, which are incompatible with open borders.

      3. This libertarian supports more open borders, but only after the elimination of the welfare state. Open borders AND a welfare state is a path to destruction.

      4. Some libertarians support Open Borders. The confused ones.

        The ones that think libertarianism is a suicide pact that must allow an infinite supply of big government voters to turn the guns of government against them.

  13. You’re assuming that, having made a deal regarding immigration under Obama, that Trump still wouldn’t have done whatever he could to undo that deal today. He got elected on a racist, anti-immigrant platform; that doesn’t sound like something having or not having a healthcare law was going to change.

    Meanwhile, millions more Americans have healthcare today than they would have had Obama not used his moment to pass a healthare bill.

    In the end, your article boils down to blaming Obama for Trump’s (and the GOP’s) anti-immigrant nationalism.

    Next time, maybe you can figure out how to spread some of the blame to Clinton and Soros, you know, to hit all the popular conservative targets. Or, and this is crazy, you could blame the President and the GOP majorities in both houses of Congress for their own failures.

    1. He got elected on a racist, anti-immigrant platform


      Only the fucking libtards think it’s “racist” to recognize that countries don’t exist without borders, that security is tied to control of those same borders, that many immigrants offer nothing of value to America, and that those who enter the country illegally are criminals who should be apprehended, punished and deported.

      He got elected because after 16+ years of incompetent leadership from the president factory, Americans had enough. Even a reality TV show actor was a step up from what we had before.

      As for more Americans having health care – that’s bullshit. It’s not health care if you can’t afford to use it. The BREAK EVEN point on an Obozocare Silver plan is somewhere around $30,000 a year. If you’re paying less than that in health care costs, Obozocare is a bad deal. Of course, a lot of welfare recipients have coverage – which just turns the whole idea of meritocracy on its head. People who work and scrimp and save can’t afford to use the health care coverage they are forced to buy – but shitheads who sit at home on the couch all day watching TV are fully covered – using taxpayer dollars stolen from those who work.

      Face it, the Demoncrap establishment exists because it makes people dependent on government. It does this by making every other option more expensive, untenable or illegal.

  14. Is anyone aware of any reasonable defense of Judge Alsup’s DACA decision?

    1. DEM Ex. Order good, GOP Ex. Order Bad!

    2. Living Constitution

  15. Hey Shikha, why the fuck are you even in this country. It’s not yours, it’s mine. Get the fuck out, go back to New Dehli and lobby the government to import massive amounts of Pakistanis into India. My country is a country of of European SETTLERS, not filthy third-world immigrants.

    1. Nice troll

      Inflamatory, yet absolutely not truth truth-free.

    2. I’m assuming “Anarchist” is one of the many agents provocateurs who pretend to be libertarians or conservatives in order to make us look bad.

  16. Obummy’s real legacy: Spreading IMMORAL & ILLEGAL USA War Crimes & Drones & Coups all over the place, making Shrub #2 look like a Nobel Peace Prize Winner & increasing the IMMORAL & ILLEGAL Surveillance State!!!

  17. Call me cynical but for a long time now both political parties have been engaged in Kabuki Theatre regarding immigration to this country.

    The Dems work hard to leave the impression they are constantly fighting for what is essentially broad amnesty and an open border, while happily accomplishing nothing except pleasing their base by painting the Republicans as anti-immigrant meanies. Meanwhile the Repubicans keep talking about border security and try to make it appear they are being tough on illegal immigration to please their voters while essentially being content with overseeing the currently open border and virtually unimpeded flow of cheap labor that pleases their Chamber of Commerce friends and donors.

    President Trump may be the only person who can finally shut down this long running charade and change the current situation for the better.

    1. That looks like a pretty fair summary.


  19. leaving the other roughly 9 million undocumented immigrants vulnerable to deportation, even if they have committed no crimes and have deep roots in the United States.

    Number of undocumented immigrants in America who have committed “no crimes” = ZERO. SYHTFOTW.

  20. Was Obamacare worth it? Give me a minute, no.

  21. Thank god he did what he did if you’re right! If the Dems had pushed through the kind of idiotic immigration bill they would like that probably would have done far more harm in the long term to the country than Obamacare.

    Not to mention that the entire electorate in a number of states would be dramatically shifted to the left, which would be a very bad thing. 10-12 million (back then) illegals voting would have been greeeeeeat for low taxes and limited government right?

  22. Dear Shikha.

    Trump won the Republican primary exclusively because he took a pro-american stance on immigration (as opposed to someone like Marco Rubio, who could have been a solid republican candidate).

    So please stick your “bipartisan” consensus on immigration between upper class republicans and upper class democrats where it belongs.

  23. Is there ANYTHING Shikha cannot find to tie to the wholesome goodness that is immigrants–legal or otherwise?

  24. “The single biggest blunder of Obama’s presidency was his decision to prioritize a makeover of America’s health-care system over an immigration overhaul. ”

    Damn that Obama!
    Foreigners First!

  25. “This means that if they can’t work something out with the president and Republicans, DREAMers will face deportation.”

    We might enforce immigration law against illegal aliens!
    Oh noes!

  26. So nice to see that Reason not only does not wish to help Americans with health care, but also wants to hurt them by letting in job-busting immigrants.

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