It appears one of the first legislative actions the 111th Congress will take is a resurrecting of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) expansion that President Bush vetoed in 2007. The funding increase previously passed with virtually unanimous Congressional Democratic support, so there is little reason to expect it will fail this time around with an even larger Democratic majority in place.
Of concern to many readers is a new provision that will make the children of legal immigrants eligible for federal SCHIP funding immediately. From the program's inception over a decade ago, these immigrant families have had to maintain legal status for five years before becoming eligible. According to the WSJ, the new provision is expected to increase eligibility by 400,000 minors, in addition to the 6.6 million who received SCHIP benefits in 2006. Further, it will make immigrant women and children eligible for Medicaid at once.
Why, when there is an underutilized EB-5 Visa program that grants legal residency to potential immigrants who invest $500,000 or more into risky domestic financial enterprises that create ten or more American jobs, must immigrants and their charges be given access to the healthcare dole the moment they are authorized to be living stateside? Are we aiming for an immigration policy that benefits the citizenry, or is the goal to have the citizenry subsidize immigrants?
With an unemployment rate of more than 7% and the major stock indices down 40% over the last year, I suspect opinion polling would reveal an overwhelming majority in opposition to the provision. Supporters are hoping for it to fly under the public radar on the back of SCHIP. If you don't want the furtive tactic to be successful, contact your incoming Senators and House representative to make them aware of your stance as soon as possible. A vote could come as early as this week. Please feel free to copy anything written here for that purpose.
If SCHIP expansion is something you support, perhaps because it will be funded by an increase in excise taxes on tobacco retailers, the approach to take might be to simply question why it is necessary to risk broad Congressional support for SCHIP by attaching a controversial immigration provision that was not in the previously vetoed legislation that received the support of more than two-thirds of Congress.
While the provision may seem of minor significance, it looks to be a canary in the coal mine for the Obama administration. Open borders advocates hoping to persuade the new President that pushing for things like 'comprehensive immigration reform' will be legistatively and politically successful:
Immigrant advocates are hoping the Obama administration and new Congress will go on to tackle bigger measures. Mr. Obama has pledged to try again for a comprehensive immigration bill that had been supported by Mr. Bush but failed in the last Congress. It's unclear, however, how high a priority that is for Mr. Obama, who has placed greater urgency on issues such as economic stimulus, health care and climate change. ...And so must we. Paladins of sovereignty, it's time to rise up again. Eternal vigilance.
Immigrant advocates are hopeful that the ban will be eliminated and that the victory will help make the case that pro-immigration action can be a political winner, said Jennifer Ng'andu of the advocacy group National Council of La Raza.
"We consider this the first real test of the new administration and the Congress," she said.