WASHINGTON (AP) — Issuing a last call for health care, President Barack Obama assured Latinos on Thursday that signing up for new insurance exchanges won't lead to deportation for any relatives in the U.S. illegally.
Facing fresh skepticism from one of his traditionally most loyal constituencies, Obama pushed back on the notion of some critics that he's become America's "deporter in chief," insisting that Latinos know that "I've got their back." In a virtual town hall meeting with Spanish-language media outlets, Obama disputed that his credibility had been undermined by the chaotic health care rollout and his failure to secure legal status for millions of Latinos in the U.S. illegally.
"The main point that I have for everybody watching right now is, you don't punish me by not signing up for health care," Obama said. "You're punishing yourself or your family if in fact there's affordable health care to be had."
Obama's push to boost enrollment comes as the end-of-March deadline to enroll is rapidly approaching — and with it, renewed concerns that if the Obama administration misses its target, the insurance pool could become unsustainable and undermine the broader law's success. The federal government has provided millions of dollars for advertising campaigns geared toward the Latino community, and top officials have been fanning out to spread the word, with first lady Michelle Obama appearing Wednesday in a predominantly minority neighborhood in Miami.
Enrolling Latinos, who are disproportionately uninsured in the U.S., has been a major priority, but the effort has been complicated by a cascade of obstacles including problems with the Spanish-language website. California's state-based exchange, which co-hosted Obama's event, has come under heavy criticism for lackluster efforts to sign up Latinos.