Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, a longtime proponent of immigrant rights,wants to extend the benefits of the Patient Protection and Affordable CareAct to the country's millions of undocumented workers.

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In a speech on the House floor defending the proposal, theChicago Democrat framed the policy in both moral and economicterms.

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“Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you meansmoving forward with no restrictions on which brother and sister andneighbor we think of as ‘eligible’ or ‘deserving,’ ” he said.

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But, recognizing the challenges PPACA insurance exchanges havehad in attracting young, healthy participants to cover the cost ofthe older, and more costly enrollees,Guitérrez also appealed to pragmatism.

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“As a nation, we all benefit when we spread the risk, requireyounger, healthier workers to join our exchanges with the rest ofus, reduce the costs of compensating hospitals for caring for theuninsured, and decrease the number of uninsured who live and workhere,” he said.

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A 2013 study estimated that 13percent of the uninsured were Mexican immigrants.

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Currently, PPACA specifically bars undocumented immigrants fromsigning up for insurance on the state or federally-run healthinsurance exchanges.

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Gutiérrez's bill would not only allow unauthorized immigrants tobuy insurance--it would require them to do so, just like everybodyelse.

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In a Congress controlled by Republicans, however, Gutiérrez'sproposal is dead on arrival.

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In fact, Republicans frequently voiced concerns thatundocumented workers would be covered by the PPACA in the monthspreceding its enactment in 2010.

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The concerns gained enough steam that President Obama took timeduring a Congressional address in 2009 to guarantee that his healthcare bill did not seek to cover unauthorized immigrants.

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In what was then perceived as a shocking violation ofCongressional decorum, U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, a South CarolinaRepublican, jumped from his seat and shouted, "You lie!"

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While even Gutiérrez acknowledges that his bill has littlechance of passage, he and others in support of greater immigrantrights see it as an opportunity to begin moving the debate in yearsto come.

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In addition, as Latinos and other immigrant groups gaininfluence as crucial voting blocs, Democrats seek to highlight thedifference between their efforts to promote immigrant rights andmuch of the inflammatory anti-immigrant rhetoric that has come outof the race for the Republican presidential nomination,particularly from Donald Trump.

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