The state Senate on Tuesday approved a hotly debated measure that would allow many immigrants in the country illegally to sign up for special healthcare programs that would offer the same benefits as Medi-Cal.

The action comes just days after lawmakers significantly scaled back the plan, which originally would have offered state-subsidized Medi-Cal to people in the country without authorization.

State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) said his proposal provides “what we can realistically achieve now” for the estimated 2 million people in the state illegally.

“We are talking about our friends. We are talking about our neighbors and our families who are denied basic healthcare in the richest state of this union,” Lara told his colleagues.

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