Trans issues have been at the forefront of headlines for months, and the latest news is no exception. The issues have largely fallen along political and generational ideological lines, and the latest development in issues regarding transgender individuals has added a new layer: immigration.

A Change to California State Policy

A controversial policy out of California has sparked outrage from Conservatives on social media. The policy states that, starting January 1 of this year, all illegal immigrants who live in California and meet certain requirements are eligible for gender-affirming care via Medi-Cal, the state’s version of Medicare.

Source: Wikimedia/Andre m

This is an expansion of that state’s medicare system. Previously, illegal immigrants couldn’t qualify for state insurance such as Medi-Cal due to their immigration status, but the update to Medi-Cal changes that. Now, migrants who have been residents of the state since 2014 and live below a certain income threshold qualify and are enrolled in Medi-Cal automatically.

Illegal Immigration is on the Rise

This appears to be a move in response to the surge of illegal immigration that the United States has seen from the southern border in the past months. Law enforcement reported nearly 200,000 illegal immigrant crossings at the border in November of 2023, and the number appears to only be increasing.

Source: Wikimedia/z2amiller

Control over the border between the United States and Mexico is shaping up to be a hot-button topic for politicians ahead of the 2024 presidential election, and for good reason. There has been such a large wave of illegal immigrants into the country recently that even Democratic mayors in cities such as Chicago, New York, and Denver have admitted that they’re struggling to integrate the new residents.

California: High Taxes, High Benefits

California has been the center of conversation around both immigration and social policies for decades, and this newest development is no exception. California’s higher taxes and progressive social policies have allowed for it to provide more amenities for its residents, such as the expansive state medicaid program.

Source: Wikimedia/Office of the California Governor

These same social and fiscal policies have long been the target of conservatives, who claim that California is robbing its residents to provide for those unwilling to work for themselves. The newest policy change adds a racial element to the conversation, to nobody’s surprise.

Lauren Boebert Inserting Herself Into the Conversation

One response from Colorado Republican representative, Lauren Boebert, has fanned the flames of the conversation around California. On X, formerly known as Twitter, she released a scathing statement that decried California and worked in a dig against immigrants and transgender individuals as well.

Source: Twitter/X/laurenboebert

The tweet reads “California is now paying for illegal aliens to get sex changes. There’s no punchline to this tweet. California is the punchline.” The rage-baiting tactic is a familiar one for the Colorado congresswoman, and the tweet, at the time of this writing, has been viewed more than 230,000 times.

As Always, There’s Nuance

While Boebert’s tweet is technically true, it misses a good deal of nuance surrounding the situation. State guidelines now allow for illegal migrants to qualify for gender-affirming care through the state medicaid program, this is true. There’s no evidence that any illegal migrants have taken advantage of the program yet, though.

Source: Wikimedia/Tony Webster from Minneapolis

Additionally, the guidelines for qualifying for gender-affirming care through the state are far stricter than Boebert would have her audience believe. It isn’t as simple as going to a doctor and informing them that you would like gender-affirming care, and qualify for financing through the state medicaid program.

Formal Documentation from California

A state memo from 2022 clarifies the state’s position on gender-affirming care for all individuals, not just illegal migrants. State policy allows for gender-affirming care, if and when it is considered medically necessary. This requires a screening process for all individuals, as well as a reference from a medical professional who has deemed the care necessary.

Source: Wikimedia/Tony Webster from Minneapolis

This policy is in accordance with recommendations from the Transgender Law Center, who confirm that state law requires requests to be analyzed on a case-by-case basis. Because gender-affirming care is so personalized to the individual, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to transgender issues and care.

Conservative Response to Boebert

Conservative response to Lauren Boebert’s tweet has ranged from strongly affirmative, to pointing out the flaws in her argument. As with many of Boebert’s tweets, the message misses the crux of a hot-button issue, which, in this case, is the true crisis at the border.

Source: Twitter/X/bubblebathgirl

One conservative commentator even pointed this out. Paul Szypula, an X/Twitter user with more than 100,000 followers, responded to Boebert’s tweet with additional information. He stated that “California is horrible, but so is the US border. Republicans in Congress had a year as majority to address it but refused to be tough when needed.”

High Tensions, High Response

Tensions between the various state governments and illegal immigrants are currently high, and it doesn’t appear that California’s new policy change is going to change that. While the sentiment around allowing illegal immigrants to qualify for state healthcare is admirable and compassionate, it may have inadvertently fueled the flames between Republicans and Democrats ahead of the 2024 election.

Source: Wikimedia/Ron Reiring

Whether California will face further backlash around this policy change remains to be seen. There has been a fairly positive response to the new policy on social media, particularly among younger voters, for whom transgender issues are held near and dear. It’s unclear what this sort of discourse and rhetoric will have on turnout for the 2024 election, but individuals like Lauren Boebert will certainly ensure the issues surrounding immigration and transgender rights remain at the forefront of voter’s minds.