US Legislative Immigration Update August 17, 2009

Right Side News Reports from the Federation for American Immigration Reform in this August 17, 2009 Legislative Weekly…

  • Illegal Alien Health Care Loophole a Topic of Debate at August Townhall Meetings
  • While in Mexico, President Obama Promises Amnesty Next Year
  • DHS April Report Attacking True Immigration Reformers as “Extremists” Further Discredited  

Illegal Alien Health Care Loophole a Topic of Debate at August Townhall Meetings 

Congress has returned home for its annual summer recess, and multiple media outlets have reported on contentious health care town halls where elected officials are engaging in heated exchanges with their constituents. (See, for example, The Associated Press, August 12, 2009). As Members of Congress and their constituents continue to engage in the health care debate, the issue of immigration – both legal and illegal – will play an important role.

Many Americans have used the town hall forums to express their opposition to covering illegal aliens under a health care reform proposal. Last month, President Obama told CBS News that illegal aliens should not be covered under a health care bill. (CBS News, July 21, 2009).   However, FAIR has exposed the loopholes in the House version of the health care reform legislation that will allow illegal aliens to access taxpayer-subsidized affordability credits and the so-called “public” option health plan. (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, July 20, 2009 and FAIR’s Legislative Analysis).

While the president said he was opposed to providing health care coverage to illegal aliens, he did note a caveat: “The one exception that I think has to be discussed is how are we treating children, partly because if you’ve got children who may be here illegally but are still in playgrounds or at schools, and potentially are passing on illnesses and communicable diseases, that aren’t getting vaccinated, that I think is a situation where you may have to make an exception.” (CBS News, July 21, 2009). The federal government has already addressed this issue. Section 403(c)(2)(E) of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996 (Public Law 104-193) allows illegal aliens to access “[p]ublic health assistance…for immunizations with respect to immunizable diseases and for testing and treatment of symptoms of communicable diseases whether or not such symptoms are caused by a communicable disease.” (Public Law 104-193, August 22, 1996).  In other words, it is not necessary, as President Obama has suggested, to further expand illegal aliens’ access to taxpayer-funded health care in order to provide illegal alien children preventative care.

The cost of health care reform will be a function of the number of people eligible to participate. Since the House version of the bill lacks meaningful verification procedures, illegal aliens will be able to access taxpayer-funded subsidies for affordability credits and the public plan. (See FAIR’s Legislative Analysis). In addition, Section 242(d) of the House bill allows legal immigrants (green card holders) – who are otherwise required to wait five years before becoming eligible for most federal benefits – to immediately become eligible for affordability credits as soon as they set foot in the United States. (H.R.3200, July 14, 2009). The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the average annual subsidy for individuals who access the subsidized affordability credits and/or public plan will be $4,600 per person in 2014, rising to $6,000 per person in 2019. (CBO Letter, July 17, 2009). At current admission levels, this means that American taxpayers will be subsidizing the costs of health care for both legal and illegal aliens to the tune of tens, and maybe even hundreds, of billions of dollars each year, depending upon how many of these aliens actually access the subsidized affordability credits or public plan.

Some have argued, however, that forcing Americans to subsidize health insurance for illegal and legal aliens will actually save the American taxpayers money, for two reasons.  First, some argue that expanding the base of those covered by insurance will lower the costs for everyone.  Second, some argue that early diagnosis will lead to treatment at a fraction of the cost than later diagnosis would. Last week, the CBO sent a letter to Representative Nathan Deal (R-GA) indicating that this is not the case. Rep. Deal asked the CBO to review “the budgetary effects of proposals to expand governmental support for preventative medical care and wellness services.” CBO ultimately concluded that “the evidence suggests that for most preventative services, expanded utilization leads to higher, not lower, medical spending overall.” (CBO Letter, August 7, 2009). These findings directly contradict the argument that giving aliens taxpayer-subsidized health insurance will somehow save Americans money in the long run.  Accordingly, one way for Congress to lower the cost of the health reform bill would be to demand vigorous enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws.  This would help alleviate some of the cost burdens on America’s health care system, particularly on our emergency rooms.  Another way for Congress to reduce the cost of this bill would be to retain the current five year waiting period for federal benefits and to eliminate Section 242(d) in the House bill.

The House of Representatives will consider its version of the health care bill when its members return to Washington in September. The Senate is expected to resume its work on its two health care bills when it reconvenes, as well.

While in Mexico, President Obama Promises Amnesty Next Year

Last week, while meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon in Guadalajara, Mexico, President Barack Obama predicted Congress would pass an amnesty bill next year to legalize more than 12 million illegal aliens who are presently in the United States.  (ABC News, August 11, 2009 and The Los Angeles Times, August 11, 2009).

While in Mexico, President Obama stated: “Secretary Napolitano is coordinating these discussions, and I would anticipate that before the year is out we will have draft legislation along with sponsors potentially in the House and the Senate who are ready to move this forward, and when we come back next year, that we should be in a position to start acting.”  The President also conceded that overcoming the opposition of the American people to an amnesty bill would be difficult, saying: “Am I going to be able to snap my fingers and get this done?  No. This is going to be difficult.”  (ABC News, August 11, 2009).  The Los Angeles Times even suggested that passing the bill would “prove [to be] a major political test.”

Mexican government officials were upset with this timing.  According to media reports, Mexican Senator Carlos Navarrete of the “leftist Democratic Revolution Party” responded to Obama’s announcement by saying: “This is not good news,” and also stated “we can hope that Latino Congress members who have taken on this initiative [of immigration reform] will maintain their activism in this matter.”  (The Los Angeles Times, August 11, 2009).

The people who should be the most upset by this announcement, however, are the American people, particularly those who are out of work.  America has a real shortage of jobs, and the idea that Congress would consider amnesty legislation, thereby giving illegal aliens the ability to openly compete for scarce jobs, is not in the best interest of the American worker.  (See FAIR’s Report Amnesty & Joblessness, July 2009).  In fact, earlier this year, Vice President Joe Biden even suggested that America’s economic situation is at odds with President Obama’s goal of signing amnesty legislation. (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, April 6, 2009).

More recently, The New York Times opinion page expressed just how dire America’s job situation is.    Op-Ed columnist Bob Herbert wrote that “the American economy does not seem able to provide enough jobs – and nowhere near enough good jobs – to maintain the standard of living that most Americans have come to expect.”  Herbert’s column states that the U.S. economy has lost 6.7 million jobs since December 2007 and that the economy has fewer jobs today than it did in 2000, despite the fact that the “labor force has grown by around 12 million workers since then.”  Coincidentally, nearly 12 million illegal aliens are in the United States, with nearly 8.3 million in the workforce.  Herbert also stated that “[n]o one is predicting a recovery in the foreseeable future powerful enough to replace the millions of jobs that have vanished,” further calling into question the wisdom of any amnesty legislation and undercutting any calls for a “guest worker” program as part of any immigration bill. (The New York Times, August 10, 2009).

DHS April Report Attacking True Immigration Reformers as “Extremists” Further Discredited

The “intelligence assessment” on “Rightwing Extremism” issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in April was further discredited last week, this time by information provided by DHS.  (DHS Report, April 7, 2009).  The April assessment painted millions of American citizens, including many of America’s “returning veterans” as “extremists,” and categorized Americans concerned with unchecked illegal immigration as a threat. (FOXNews, April 17, 2009; See also FAIR’s Legislative Update, April 27, 2009).

The American public, including organizations that represent generations of America’s veterans like the American Legion, were outraged by the DHS assessment.  (FOXNews, April 24, 2009).  Democrats on Capitol Hill also said they were “dumbfounded” by the DHS report, and others questioned the reliability and sources behind the report. Despite questions about the reliability of the report, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano stood behind it. (The Washington Times, April 16, 2009).

This past week, DHS responded to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by Americans for Limited Government (ALG), and their response reveals that DHS’s “assessment” was not based on actual intelligence. (Americans for Limited Government, August 13, 2009).  Instead, DHS’s disclosure reveals that they relied not on primary sources or investigations to draft the report, but exclusively on secondary sources, including some that are highly questionable. (DHS Interim Response to FOIA Request, August 5, 2009).

The FOIA request submitted by ALG asked DHS for federal records related to the extremism report, including “all data and all studies, reports, or other documents regarding data created or reviewed by the Department in general to draft the report.” (ALG FOIA Request, April 17, 2009). In response, DHS provided ALG with a list of “website links for…217 pages of publicly responsive material.” The list shows that DHS relied on spurious sources – including heavy use of materials from the Southern Poverty Law Center and “WhatDoesItMean.com” – in issuing its “Rightwing Extremism” report. (DHS Interim Response to FOIA Request, August 5, 2009).

The SPLC is well-known for slanderously attacking groups and individuals who advocate for the enforcement of immigration laws.  The SPLC neither has definitions for the labels it freely slaps on organizations, nor provides any sources or footnotes to support the conclusions made in its “reports.” Prior to a House Judiciary Committee hearing on “the Public Safety and Civil Rights Implications of State and Local Enforcement of Federal Immigration Laws” (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, April 6, 2009), the SPLC submitted a letter to Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) that provided erroneous information about FAIR. At the actual hearing, Immigration Subcommittee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) read parts of the SPLC letter into the record.  FAIR President Dan Stein responded by sending a letter to Chairman Conyers and Subcommittee Chairwoman Lofgren pointing out the obvious falsehoods in the SPLC’s letter. Two days after Mr. Stein’s letter was sent to Mr. Conyers and Ms. Lofgren, the SPLC was forced to correct a number of the claims they made in their original letter. (For more information on the SPLC, see FAIR’s Inquiry into the Methods and Tactics Employed by the Southern Poverty Law Center and FAIR’s Journalist Alert.)

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The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) is a national, nonprofit, public-interest, membership organization of concerned citizens who share a common belief that our nation’s immigration policies must be reformed to serve the national interest.

FAIR seeks to improve border security, to stop illegal immigration, and to promote immigration levels consistent with the national interest-more traditional rates of about 300,000 a year.