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California Immigrant Advocates See Health Care, Professional Licenses As Next Battle

Aired 1/13/14 on KPBS News.

On the heels of legislative victories in 2013, immigrant advocates in California are planning their next major fights.

Thanks to legislative victories in 2013, undocumented immigrants living in California can now practice law and will soon be able to get drivers licenses. Now, immigrant advocates hope to take advantage of Sacramento’s pro-immigrant climate to expand on those victories.

Health care is first on the legislative wish list. Immigrant advocacy groups want to expand health care coverage to people living in the state without proper immigration documents.

Undocumented immigrants currently are not eligible for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

“We have a huge expansion under the Affordable Care Act through both Medical and through the California Health Benefits Exchange,” said Ron Coleman, government affairs manager at the California Immigrant Policy Center, “and we think that similar mechanisms could be put in place for undocumented community members.”

An estimated 1.2 million undocumented immigrants will remain uninsured in California after the Affordable Care Act is implemented fully, according to a University of California at Los Angeles study. That’s about 40 percent of California’s uninsured population.

Besides health care coverage, immigrant advocates want legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to get a variety of professional licenses in California. Given recent legislation making undocumented students eligible for state loans, Coleman said it makes sense to expand their opportunities for employment after college.

“It really is the next step to make sure that students have ways to go into various professional careers that may require certain types of licenses,” he said.

In early January, the California Supreme Court ruled that undocumented immigrants could get law licenses in the state.

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