How Right-Wing Media Handles Positive Obamacare News: Blame Undocumented Immigrants

Right-wing media outlets including Fox News falsely claimed that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was only able to reach the benchmark of 6 million enrollees by signing up undocumented immigrants and “Mexican nationals” at Mexican consulates. In fact, Mexican nationals -- like all American citizens and legal immigrants -- are mandated by the law to sign up for insurance, and outreach efforts at Mexican consulates that work to educate Mexicans legally living in the United States about government programs are nothing new.

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Health Care Enrollment Reaches 6 Million Enrollees 

HHS: More Than 6 Million Americans Have Signed Up For Health Care Coverage Through Marketplace. On March 27, the White House announced that ACA enrollments had surpassed the Congressional Budget Office's estimate of 6 million enrollees several days ahead of schedule. [Health and Human Services, 3/27/14]

Right-Wing Media Claimed Enrollment Benchmark Was Reached By Illegally Enrolling Immigrants At Mexican Consulates

Fox News Suggested Navigators Enrolled Undocumented Immigrants At Mexican Consulates. On the March 28 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Anna Kooiman suggested that the administration may have pushed undocumented immigrants to enroll in order to “get to this number,” while co-host Steve Doocy claimed that “at a number of Mexican consulates, they're signing up, could be Mexican nationals, could be people of Mexican descent, for the Affordable Care Act” : 

KOOIMAN: So how on earth did they get to this number? Well navigators, apparently, are helping people enroll at Mexican consulates offices around the country. It's happening in Chicago, it's happening in Las Vegas. [...] The president earlier this month, do you remember him saying this? He said, you know, if you have a family where some people are citizens or legally here and others are not documented, the immigration people will never get that information. Also saying earlier this month that is not going to be used to try to find out somebody's status, that it's not going to be checked there. Make sure you remember Brian, South Carolina congressman Joe Wilson saying 'you lie' back in 2009 that illegals wouldn't be covered. Well, maybe he had a point. 


DOOCY: At a number of Mexican consulates they're signing up, could be Mexican nationals, could be people of Mexican descent, for the Affordable Care Act.  [Fox News, Fox & Friends3/28/14]

Breitbart Implies ACA Is Seeking Enrollees At Mexican Consulates “Regardless of Immigration Status.”  On March 27, a Breitbart article misleadingly claimed that the Obama administration has been facilitating ACA enrollment events at Mexican consulates around the U.S. that are designed to attract enrollees “regardless of citizenship.” The article went on to imply that President Obama's administration would not check potential enrollees' immigration status:

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), undocumented immigrants aren't supposed to be receiving government-run health benefits or subsidized coverage. However, President Barack Obama told Latinos in early March that the website would not be used to find out about an individual's immigration status.

“None of the information that is provided in order for you to obtain health insurance is in any way transferred to immigration services,” he said. [Breitbart, 3/27/14]

Use Of Mexican Consulates For Social Programs And Human Health Services Is Nothing New

Consulate's Health Care Information Program, Ventanilla De Salud, Started In 2001 To “Provide Reliable Information On Health Topics.”  According to the Ventanilla de Salud website, a program of the Mexican government developed by the Department of Health and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the program has been used as a way to distribute health and human services information to Mexican immigrants living in the United States, and were doing so before the ACA. The program's goal is to “provide reliable information on health topics, counseling and referrals to health services available and accessible in local communities” to Mexicans living in the United States:

The Ventanilla de Salud is a program of the Government of Mexico developed by the Department of Health and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and implemented through 50 Mexican consulates in the United States and local health organizations. The Ventanillas provide reliable information on health topics, counseling and referrals to health services available and accessible in local communities. This program was designed to improve the physical and mental health of Mexicans living in the United States and to increase access to primary and preventive health insurance coverage and ensure culturally sensitive services in order to reduce the use of emergency services.


In 2001, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, approved the implementation of a pilot phase of the model Ventanilla de Salud “VDS” in the Mexican consulate in San Diego. Supported by the US-Mexico Border Health Commission and the US-Mexico health initiative (now known as Iniciativa de las Américas), The California Endowment approved a grant for a pilot phase in the Mexican consulates in San Diego and Los Angeles (2003). [Ventanilla de Salud, Accessed 3/28/14]

Fox News: Bush Administration Launched Partnerships With Mexican Consulates To Promote SNAP Benefits In 2004. Fox News reported in July 2012 that the Bush Administration's USDA launched a partnership with Mexican consulates to “educate eligible Mexican nationals living in the United States about available nutrition assistance” :

Both the Spanish-language ad campaign and the U.S.-Mexico partnership were launched under the George W. Bush administration. The partnership dates back to 2004 -- it was signed between then-Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman and Mexico's foreign affairs secretary at the time. The USDA says on its website that it is meant to “educate eligible Mexican nationals living in the United States about available nutrition assistance.” To do that, Mexico distributes materials through its embassy and 50 consular offices. [Fox News, 6/19/12]

Longstanding Federal Policy Allows Undocumented Individuals To Enroll Eligible Family Members

HHS: States May Not Require Applicants To Provide Immigration Status Of Any Non-Applicant Family Member. A letter released by the Department of Health and Human Services clarifies a longstanding federal policy in regard to the ACA stating that the enrollment process will not require an individual to prove citizenship or immigration status unless they are an applicant:

Under federal law, states are required to establish the citizenship and immigration status of applicants for Medicaid (except emergency Medicaid), SCHIP, TANF and Food Stamps. However, states may not require applicants to provide information about the citizenship or immigration status of any non-applicant family or household member or deny benefits to an applicant because a non-applicant family or household member has not disclosed his or her citizenship or immigration status. [Department of Health and Human Services, accessed 3/28/14

Reuters: Fear Of Immigration Enforcement Keeps Many Parents From Enrolling Eligible Children For Health Care Insurance. Reuters reports that many mixed-status families fear immigration enforcement if they provide information to enroll their children or other eligible family members in health insurance, and explained that health fairs at consulates can provide necessary information to alleviate these fears: 

Obamacare supporters say fear of immigration enforcement is a particular concern in Hispanic families where one spouse is a U.S. citizen or legal resident and married to an undocumented person, or where both parents are undocumented immigrants but their children have citizenship.

“A lot of mixed-status families are afraid that if they enroll, that the government will come and divide up their family through deportation,” said Daniel Zingale, senior vice president at the California Endowment, a health foundation.

One couple who last month came to a Los Angeles event by the group Vision y Compromiso demonstrates the types of problems these families face, said program manager Hugo Ramirez. The organization, dedicated to improving the health of the Hispanic community, received funding through Covered California to promote Obamacare.

The undocumented parents, a father who is a construction worker and a mother who works as a house cleaner, feared information they might submit to enroll their three children in Covered California could be used against them by U.S. immigration officials, Ramirez said.

An advocate advised the couple they would not risk running afoul of immigration authorities, but that in enrolling their children and providing details on the family's earnings, they would have to begin paying income taxes despite being undocumented, Ramirez said. The couple seemed inclined to buy coverage for their children, ages 17 and younger, he said. [Reuters, 12/18/13]

Lawfully Residing Immigrants Are Required By Law To Have Health Care

ASPE: ACA Requires That Citizens And Lawfully Residing Immigrants Have Minimal Insurance Coverage. The Office of Assistance Secretary for Planning and Evaluation explains that lawfully residing immigrants, which might include Mexican nationals, are required by law under the ACA to “have minimum essential coverage or pay a penalty” :

The individual mandate in the ACA requires, with certain exceptions, that citizens and lawfully residing immigrants have minimum essential coverage or pay a penalty (the mandate does not apply to undocumented immigrants). The mandate excludes those with incomes below the threshold necessary to file taxes or to those whose contribution to their health insurance, after subsidies, would exceed 8 percent of their income. [Office of Assistance Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, April 2012]

Undocumented Immigrants Are Not Eligible For Coverage Under The ACA

NILC: Undocumented Immigrants Cannot Get Subsidized Health Care Coverage Under The ACA. According to the National Immigration Law Center, undocumented immigrants cannot get subsidized health care coverage under the ACA and are not even allowed to purchase private insurance through the individual health insurance marketplace at full cost. According to the federal health care website:

Undocumented immigrants aren't eligible for federal public benefits through the Affordable Care Act. For example, undocumented immigrants can't buy coverage through the Marketplace. Premium tax credits aren't available for undocumented immigrants. 

Undocumented immigrants may continue to buy coverage on their own outside the Marketplace and can get limited services for an emergency medical condition through Medicaid, if they are otherwise eligible for Medicaid in the state. Undocumented immigrants aren't subject to the individual shared responsibility requirement. [Federal Health Care Website, accessed 3/28/14]