Beware of self-styled taxpayer advocates who exploit anti-immigrant animus instead of protecting  taxpayers.

That’s what many on the anti-tax right in California recently did on the issues of healthcare.

The argument from the right was to criticize California for extending MediCal coverage to undocumented adults up to age 26. Then they conflated that extension with a re-establishment of the individual mandate in California to shore up the Obamacare insurance markets.

The nonsensical and prejudiced argument was simplified down to this: you are paying a “tax” (the individual mandate) to pay for healthcare for unauthorized immigrants. That’s dressing up anti-immigrant nonsense in anti-tax rhetoric.

The truth of the matter is exactly the opposite. 

The extension of MediCal coverage is good for taxpayer rights. Undocumented adults are taxpayers too—many have been here nearly their whole lives, but aren’t getting the services their taxes fund. And this extension to young adults was far too limited and hardly fixed this problem of unfair taxation; indeed young adults use so little healthcare that the cost of adding this coverage for negligible.

At the same time, the individual mandate isn’t a tax. Yes, the U.S. Supreme Court called it that, but the mandate is a charge for those who don’t get health coverage. It helps make a market for healthcare work—and making sure people have health insurance is good for society, business, and taxpayers. When people aren’t covered, the costs of their insurance ends up being borne by the rest of us.

These two actions also have nothing to do with each other. To conflate them and distort them, as those on the California right did, shows that conservatives here remain addicted to anti-immigrant appeals. They are just subtler than the president about such appeals.