Republicans said that amounts to an amnesty, calling it a backdoor effort to make sure current illegal immigrants get health care.
President Barack Obama gestures while delivering remarks during a health care rally, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2009, at the University of Maryland in College Park, Md.
President Obama said this week that his health care plan wonâ€™t cover illegal immigrants, but argued thatâ€™s all the more reason to legalize them and ensure they eventually do get coverage.
He also staked out a position that anyone in the country legally should be covered – a major break with the 1996 welfare reform bill, which limited most federal public assistance programs only to citizens and longtime immigrants.
â€œEven though I do not believe we can extend coverage to those who are here illegally, I also donâ€™t simply believe we can simply ignore the fact that our immigration system is broken,â€ Mr. Obama said Wednesday evening in a speech to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. â€œThatâ€™s why I strongly support making sure folks who are here legally have access to affordable, quality health insurance under this plan, just like everybody else.
Mr. Obama added, â€œIf anything, this debate underscores the necessity of passing comprehensive immigration reform and resolving the issue of 12 million undocumented people living and working in this country once and for all.â€