I'm excited to join a caravan of immigrants, activists and leaders tonight to head into Sacramento to speak out for health for all. For nearly a week, immigrants and their allies have been tirelessly caravanning from San Diego to Fresno with multiple stops in between to share their stories and advocate for SB 1005, Senator Ricardo Lara's legislation that would expand health coverage to California's undocumented population. The caravan's journey culminates in Sacramento on April 30th, where The Health for All Act, as it's been formally titled, will be heard in the Senate Health Committee. Senator Lara writes compellingly about this legislation on his Huffington Post blog site.
The momentum the Health for All Act has garnered is a testament to the power of California's immigrant communities. Last year, undocumented immigrants put themselves on the line to fight for the policies that mattered most to them and their families -- driver's licenses for all Californians, the domestic worker's bill of rights, the TRUST Act and other pivotal pieces of legislation. Bit by bit, California is peeling away the injustice and adversity that forces immigrants to live a life of fear and exclusion.
But much work remains, and the Health for All Act is a critical step in the right direction. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) specifically excluded undocumented immigrants from insurance coverage provided through Medi-Cal and the health care exchange. SB 1005 would allow access to the Medi-Cal program, as well as offer insurance through a new health benefit exchange for those individuals who would otherwise qualify for enrollment in those programs but are denied based on their immigration status.
SB 1005 goes a long way towards making California a better place for all of us. We're all in this together, and we're all healthier when we all are covered. This is also an issue of fairness. Undocumented immigrants are a major economic engine for California. From putting food on our tables to playing key roles in so many industries, undocumented Californians play a major role in our state's economic life, contributing $2.2 billion dollars in state and local taxes in 2010 alone. But if they find themselves facing a health crisis, they likely have nowhere to turn. And this is an issue of cost effectiveness. Regular medical care and visits to the doctor can protect immigrant families from painful, expensive -- and easily treatable -- medical conditions.
As I take this journey with immigrants fighting for a better life for themselves and their families, I am hopeful that our state can and will continue to lead the way in ensuring that all residents who call California home can thrive.