MERIDEN — Community members gathered on the Meriden Green to show support for state legislation that would provide medical assistance to certain people regardless of immigration status.
The Connecticut Immigrant and Refugee Coalition and United Action Connecticut partnered in support of Senate Bill 956, which would make undocumented immigrants eligible for enrollment in the state’s HUSKY health insurance program.
Undocumented immigrants have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and have not been eligible to receive health care, rally participants said.
At the Saturday event, activists spoke publicly about what it meant for them to be undocumented and unable to receive health care.
Patricia Rosas, a member of United Action Connecticut, is an undocumented cancer survivor that has been advocating for healthcare access for years.
“I had a friend who paid for my consultation at a specialist. The doctor told me I had kidney cancer and had to remove my gallbladder as well. Once I told the doctor I did not have health insurance they told me they could not help me,” she said. “When I told the doctor I could not apply for health insurance because I was undocumented, she told me it was best if I go to my country and they were not going to help me.”
This is the second rally staged by CIRC and UACT. They previously held a rally in New Britain. Meriden was chosen as a site because of its immigrant population.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient, Jose Diaz, was diagnosed with glaucoma at a young age but is unsure of his future healthcare status under deferred action.
“They told me I needed to get that under control because if not, I would lose my eyesight in my 30s. I did not have any health insurance, I'm lucky that now because of my job, I am able to go to a specialist,” he said.
Bill supporters held up signs, clapped and cheered for speakers and shared their stories publicly. About 30 people attended the event.
Jonathan Gonzalez-Cruz, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, said he did not quality for HUSKY and ended up paying $1,000 a month for private insurance for his parents. Husky, administered by the state Department of Social Services, provides coverage, including preventative and primary care, to eligible children and adults
Advocates for the legislation said healthcare is a human right.
Alan Dornan, 81, sits on a street corner in Wethersfield every morning advocating for immigrants.
“I am the beneficiary of white male American privilege. That dream should be given to all people in this country,” he said.
Mark Kosnoff, a member of UACT, would like better healthcare access for all Connecticut residents.
“There's been a couple of things we have been advocating for in the last couple of years, and that's Healthcare access and relief for the immigrant population. This bill is on both of these things,” he said.
Speakers urged everyone to call their state representatives and show their support for the new legislation, which is scheduled for a vote on Tuesday.