In California, the world’s sixth-largest economy, there are an estimated 12 million people who are uninsured, “a third of them clearly poor,” noted Dr. Anmol Mahal as he outlined plans of the India Community Center (ICC) at Milpitas, Calif., to open a free medical clinic some time this year. Scores of mostly South Asian immigrants throng to the free health clinics periodically sponsored by such organizations as the ICC as well as to those sponsored by Hindu and Sikh temples, and mosques.

Even though these clinics never ask their clients about their legal status, not every immigrant knows this. Often, fear of being reported “keeps them from going to community clinics.” With federal officials increasingly cracking down on undocumented workers, immigrant rights activists expect those fears to increase. Last November, under a new federal policy, the automatic entitlement to health insurance through Medicaid was taken away from children born in the United States to illegal immigrants.

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