"Legal Immigrant Children's Health Improvement Act" (Lincoln Diaz-Balart, NCLR, SCHIP)
Rep. Lincoln Diaz Balart has introduced "Legal Immigrant Children's Health Improvement Act of 2009" ("LICHIA", HR319, H.R.319, link) which would add coverage for immigrant children and pregnant women to the SCHIP bill. Legal immigrants aren't able to obtain those benefits for five years. Note also that apparently the current SCHIP reauthorization bill includes a similar provision, at least in the House version.
On Wednesday of last week, a press conference in support of those benefits was held in Washington DC featuring Janet Murguia from the National Council of La Raza, MALDEF, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and apparently some lawmakers (link). Their comments - and my comments - follow.
"It is inexcusable that Latino children, who make up a significant portion our nation's population, continue to be the most uninsured ethnic group in the country... Excluding legal immigrant children from this bill would result in an irresponsible and dangerous health care policy."
Sen. Bob Menendez said:
"I haven't met anyone who isn't outraged when they hear what the current five-year bar on legal immigrant children means: that a girl with asthma has to go through five years of attacks before she can get an inhaler, and a boy with cancer has to wait five years for chemotherapy... Five years truly is a lifetime for a child. It's time to remove this bar and include coverage for legal immigrant children and pregnant women in the bill to reauthorize SCHIP, so we can take a major step toward making sure no child goes to bed at night without health care in the greatest nation on earth."
"I have worked hard for a decade on this legislation, and I urge my colleagues in the Senate to follow the lead of the House and include ICHIA in SCHIP. The need for child health insurance coverage in states with large immigrant populations is reaching crisis proportions. The law should not discriminate against legal immigrants; health care is too important an issue."
Rep. Xavier Becerra:
"The five-year waiting period can mean the difference between preventing or treating health conditions that can affect a child's prospects for a healthy and productive life-or leaving those conditions undetected and not treated, costing taxpayers much more in the long run. This is not only a matter of common sense, but also an opportunity to show the values that define us as a country."
The goal of the five year ban isn't to harm children. It's to make sure that those who come here are able to take care of themselves, and most legal immigrants are supposed to have sponsors who'll be able to look after them in the cases described above. While extraordinary circumstances need to be addressed, we also need to avoid becoming a welfare office for the world. All those at the DC event are simply baby-waving: pretending this is about treating sick children when all they're really interested in is obtaining race-based power.