Latinas respond to latest House bill for immigration reform
The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) commends members of the House of Representatives for unveiling a new immigration bill as a major step forward for comprehensive immigration reform, while expressing disappointment in the bill’s restrictions on access to health care. The bill mirrors the bipartisan Senate legislation passed earlier this year (S.744) to advance a roadmap to citizenship for currently undocumented immigrants and strengthen the immigration system. This bill improves on the Senate bill by rejecting the harsh border provisions of the “Corker-Hoeven” amendment to the Senate-approved bill for immigration reform (S.744). Unfortunately, the bill does retain several troubling provisions from the Senate bill that deny aspiring citizens participation in affordable health care and coverage options.
Under this legislation, immigrant women and families would be forced to wait up to 15 years or more before they are fully eligible for cost-effective and often life-saving health coverage programs like Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, despite the fact that aspiring citizens would be paying into these programs for more than a decade. The restrictions have drawn concern from over 400 immigrant rights, women’s health, provider, faith-based and other community organizations.
Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of NLIRH said, “While we commend the introduction of a bill to advance the national debate on immigration reform, we remain deeply concerned with the bill’s restrictions on affordable health care. Immigrant women on the roadmap to citizenship will be working, paying taxes, and contributing to their communities, families, and our nation’s economy–but will be unfairly denied basic health care. Immigration reform should support the success and health and aspiring citizens, not leave them shut out of affordable health care.”
The bill has been introduced during a time of intense negotiations in Congress around the federal budget and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While supporters of health reform in Congress defend the critical importance of expanding access to health coverage, these concerns have largely been ignored in the immigration reform debate. González-Rojas added, “The sustainability of our health care system depends on ensuring the availability and affordability of quality health coverage to all. Leaving millions of taxpayers on the roadmap to citizenship out of our health care system is poor public health policy and fiscally unwise.”
Several national polls have demonstrated that the majority of Americans support the inclusion of immigrants in our health coverage programs. According to one recent poll 81% of Latinos support the inclusion of aspiring citizens in the Affordable Care Act and a majority of all Americans believe immigrant families should be included in Medicaid. González-Rojas added, “We urge Congress to work in a bipartisan fashion to ensure all women and families, regardless of immigration status, can be healthy and fully contribute to our economy and communities.”
The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health is the only national organization working on behalf of the reproductive health and justice of the 24 million Latinas, their families and communities in the United States through public education, community mobilization and policy advocacy.