Following-Up the Newsmakers Follow-Up on Illegal Immigrants and Healthcare Reform
Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse appeared on this week’s Newsmakers program on WPRI-TV (CBS 12), offering substantive answers to some very good questions on healthcare reform asked by panelists Tim White, Arlene Violet and Ian Donnis. On at least one issue, however, the issue of how illegal immigrants are being addressed in the proposals currently being considered by Congress, viewers were left with a bit of ambiguity about the Senators’ positions.
Tim White asked a question (originally posed by a viewer) on this subject and did his best to get a direct answer from Senator Whitehouse…
Tim White: Albert sent this via Facebook. He writes: “What are the unintended consequences of this reform. For example, I hear politicians state that nowhere in the reform does coverage include undocumented aliens but, conveniently, they don’t state that nowhere (sic) are they are excluded either.” This is, Senator Whitehouse, one of those hot-button issues. You got a lot of these questions last night. How about it, language to exclude illegal aliens…In his answer, Senator Whitehouse is referring to a Senate proposal different from the House bill (HR3200) which has generated much of the current discussion of the details of Congress’ plans for health reform; for its part, HR3200 does not extend new coverage or subsidies to illegal immigrants.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse: I think it’s clear enough to my satisfaction that this bill does not provide coverage for illegal aliens. A number of our colleagues in the Senate consider this to be a make-or-break issue, and they seem comfortable with it. I think we can safely say that this is not a bill that will provide Federal support for healthcare for illegal aliens.
TW: But would you support any specific language that excludes them?
SW: I have a bill that we’ve supported already, and it excludes them to my satisfaction. I’m comfortable that we’re in the right place on that.
But even if the Senate proposal copies exactly the approach of HR3200, the issue is still not a settled one. Writing in the Hill earlier this month, Congressman Lamar Smith expressed concern about HR3200’s failure to define the kinds of eligibility verification procedures used in conjunction with other Federal entitlement programs — and about active resistance from House Democrats towards adding those requirements…
The legislation contains no verification mechanism to ensure that illegal immigrants do not apply for benefits. Republicans offered an amendment to close this loophole — it would have required verification using the existing methods that are already in place to verify eligibility for other federal benefits programs. But, when they were asked to put the language of the bill where their words were, in a party-line vote, House Democrats rejected the amendment to require verification and close this loophole.At an August 19 panel sponsored by the Center for Immigration Studies, carried on C-SPAN, Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation went into a bit more detail…
If we were to look at the current healthcare reform legislation, this takes an unprecedented step in opening up the US welfare system to illegal immigrants. Under the current law, really forever, we have had a system of identity checks that largely prevents adult illegal immigrants from getting on to these means-tested welfare programs. You have to be able to substantiate that you’re in the country legally and you have to be able to substantiate, if you’re a legal immigrant, that you’ve been here over the time-limits for eligibility.As health reform legislation moves forward, the relevant question concerning this issue is likely to be whether the eligibility verification requirements for new healthcare entitlements are at as least as stringent as the requirements on other means-tested Federal programs, and if not, why there is a difference.
The healthcare reform legislation turns that on its back and tramples it into the dust. It basically says we will not verify, we will not check….If you are going to do that with respect to healthcare, why would you not also establish the same precedent with respect to food stamps, to public housing, to the earned-income tax-credit and so forth, and I believe that that is indeed the direction that the Congress wants to go to, to allow all welfare benefits to be fully available to all illegal immigrants.