For One Mom, Executive Action Means an End to Crippling Arthritis
Por Viji Sundaram
It’s been years since Irma Montoya went a day without pain.
Soup, tea and the advice of curanderos from her homeland have helped the 53-year-old Mexican native keep her pain in check to some degree, but it’s not enough to let her get back into the workforce she was forced to leave because of her arthritis.
Doctors at the community clinic she goes to in Los Angeles have warned her that unless she gets her knee operated on soon, the arthritis will cripple her even more.
The My Health LA plan in which she is enrolled will not cover the cost of her surgery. That’s because the free health care program for poor uninsured people living in the county, even those who are undocumented like Montoya, covers only basic care.
But things have begun to look up for Montoya since President Obama announced November 20 that undocumented immigrant parents of legal permanent residents and U.S. citizens would be able to apply for a three-year reprieve from deportation under a program called Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA). Montoya will be able to apply for DAPA because she has two U.S.-born children, and meets the other requirements: she can pass a criminal background check, is not an enforcement priority for deportation and has been in the country for over five years.
The DAPA program is in some ways similar to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) launched in 2012 through an earlier presidential executive action. DACA gave a two-year renewable reprieve from deportation for youth who came to the United States as children and were under the age of 31. The new executive action announced last month will remove the age ceiling, as well as extend the reprieve to three years.
Medi-Cal through DAPA
One of the major benefits of DAPA is that it will allow Montoya to enroll in comprehensive state-funded Medi-Cal, an insurance program for low-income people known as Medicaid in the rest of the nation, if she meets its eligibility requirements. Montoya plans to enroll the moment she gets deferred action.
DAPA will also allow her to travel to Mexico to spend time with her ailing 87-year-old housebound mother, whom she hasn’t seen in 30 years. That’s because deferred action beneficiaries can apply for something called advance parole – permission to travel abroad for humanitarian, educational or business reasons.
“It’s been way too long since I saw her,” Montoya said in Spanish through an interpreter.
As a DAPA beneficiary, she will also be able to get a work permit.
According to a memorandum by U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson, DAPA applicants will have to pay $465 for the “work authorization and biometrics fees,” and no fee waivers and “very limited” fee exemptions will be granted.
Montoya and her husband crossed into the United States from their native Mexico in 1983, with their child, Alessandro Negrete, then six months old.
Since she and her husband broke up 28 years ago, Montoya had been raising her three children single-handedly with the $300-a-week salary she made at a produce company in Southern California, until health problems forced her to quit.
Montaya said she has always wanted to be a licensed childcare provider, something she believes is now well within her grasp.
Deferred action is expected to help some 5 million people nationwide, including 1.2 million Californians like Montoya.
It is likely that DAPA will not launch for approximately 180 days since Obama’s announcement, that is, not until May 20, 2015. Even so, the National Immigration Law Center is urging potential applicants to get all their documents in order. Those include documents to establish their identity and proof of living in the United States since Jan. 1, 2010.
Montaya’s eldest son, Negrete, who has been financially supporting his mother since she quit her job, has already begun collecting all the required documents she will need.
“She’s really excited about getting DAPA,” Negrete said, adding: “Once she gets her health care needs met, she will be able to do things she wasn’t able to before.”
Source: New America Media