LatinaLista — We know the immigration debate has divided the country, and we know it has clearly defined the differences between the Republicans and the Democrats.
But it’s always an eye-opener to see the issue used as the scapegoat reason for not passing good, sensible legislation â€” especially when it’s used by the one party that claims to have the best interests of the Latino community on their agenda.
Today, while President Bush was delivering his address to the United Nations General Assembly, he called on all country members to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that in Article 25 states:
“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food and clothing and housing and medical care.”
Yet, Senate Democrats purposely chose to deprive legal immigrant children and pregnant women from getting that necessary medical care that ensures having, not a good, but an “adequate” standard of living.
Because of one word: IMMIGRANT.
This week, the Senate has been debating the reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).
Originally, the amendment included the provision called Immigrant Children’s Health Improvement Act or ICHIA. It was an amendment that passed the House of Representatives this past summer with strong bipartisan support.
House members reasoned, “Why deprive legal immigrant children of health care and being able to access Medicaid and being covered by SCHIP?”
It defies common sense that anyone would do that, and House Representatives, in a rare consensus over anything containing immigrant wordage, agreed.
But something happened on the way to the Senate.
In the Senate, where a good number of Republicans, though not all, were ready to cast their vote for the amendment that included the ICHIA provision â€” they never got the opportunity.
Inexplicably, the Democrats dropped the ICHIA provision.
Nobody knows exactly why.
Hispanic organizations like the National Council of La Raza, who had been working for 10 years to get this provision restored, after it was removed during the welfare reform of 1997, and who were assured by the House leadership that the ICHIA would be included in the final legislation, are so disappointed with what Senate Democrats have done that they have pulled their support from the SCHIP bill.
Due to the deliberate omission of legal immigrant children from this legislation, NCLR will withdraw support for this version of the SCHIP reauthorization; it no longer does enough to address the barriers to health coverage that some of the poorest and most vulnerable children face. Restorations of health coverage access to legal immigrants have been supported by members of Congress from both parties, and many organizations have rallied for their enactment for more than a decade. Congress chose to drop the provisions in a battle of politics, providing the President with a greatly diminished SCHIP bill â€“ which he is determined to veto. Latino children are the most uninsured children in the U.S. The message from Congress is that it proposes to modestly expand SCHIP while excluding a significant group of Latino children.
As it stands, the bill is likely to be vetoed by the President but it doesn’t erase the fact that the Democratic Party turned its back on the LEGAL immigrant community – of which, the majority are Latino.
Was it because they felt that endorsing this provision would portray them as too sympathetic or too closely aligned with the illegal immigration debate, even though this provision was all about legal immigrant children?
From our perspective, there was nothing to lose by endorsing this provision and everything to gain for the thousands of children who would have benefited from this coverage.
Without an explanation, it gives us all reason to pause and wonder just how aligned is the Democratic Party with Latinos.
For a party that is tripping over itself to prove they can rep la raza, they just fell flat on their face and, in the process, failed the first test â€” not to mention a whole generation who WILL one day be able to vote.
Unfortunately, for them, there’s not enough insurance available to guarantee that Latino families in desperate need of that coverage will forget or forgive this act which can either be viewed as cowardice or worse, indifference.
Either way, it calls into question how committed is the Democratic Party to Latinos?