A new entitlement for illegals

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Unsatisfied with thwarting a Republican effort to authorize $3 billion for a border fence, congressional Democrats are trying to enhance the incentive for illegal aliens to enter the United States by removing the citizenship requirement from the popular State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The Republican Congress in 1996 passed legislation blocking people who are in the country illegally from claiming benefits from the federal government, and when SCHIP was created in 1997, states were required to verify citizenship. But Democrats want to take that sensible requirement for Medicaid and SCHIP and leave it to the discretion of each state.

This reflects the Democrats’ eagerness to offer free services to illegals at taxpayer expense, undermining the principles of both immigration law and good governance. And it is also a step Democrats want to take toward expanding SCHIP, like their plan to expand its coverage to include children from middle-income families that make up to $83,000 per year — a plan encompassing more than 70 percent of American children. (When SCHIP first came into being it was only for families with incomes up to double the poverty level, or $40,000 for a family of four.) Expanding the program will cost $50 billion over five years; expanding it by giving states the option to not enforce the citizenship requirement pushes the price tag up even higher — although just how much would depend on how many states decide to include illegals in the program.

This doesn’t come as much of a surprise, of course, from the perspective of either immigration or health-care policy. Recall that SCHIP was born out of a failed attempt at government-run universal health coverage. Indeed, the Democratic expansion of SCHIP will actually allow children who currently have private health insurance to switch to the federally subsidized program, saddling taxpayers with yet another entitlement burden. In the wake of the defeat of the immigration amnesty bill last month, open-borders advocates are attempting to implement their agenda using a piecemeal approach. (Last week, for example, Democrats were looking for support for an agriculture-worker bill that included a path to citizenship for workers in the country illegally.) They should not be permitted to get away with using SCHIP to funnel more taxpayer assistance to illegals.

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