- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 26, 2005

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — Lawyers representing eight children who are legal immigrants sued Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. yesterday for cutting funding of health care for some children and pregnant women who are immigrants.

The lawsuit, filed in Montgomery County, seeks to have Mr. Ehrlich’s budget cut declared unconstitutional because it discriminates against immigrants.

The governor proposed cutting the Medicaid program to save $7 million in the budget he submitted to the legislature in January.

On July 1, the Ehrlich administration removed almost 3,000 children from health care coverage under the Medicaid program.

About 750 pregnant women who were enrolled in the program on June 30 will continue to receive care until their babies are born, but Medicaid will not enroll any new pregnant women.

“Because they’re noncitizens, they’re being cut. It’s a discriminatory cut,” said Regan Bailey, one of the Legal Aid Bureau lawyers who brought the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs are eight children — one of whom has cancer — from Cameroon, El Salvador and Mexico.

The plaintiffs live in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. The Legal Aid Bureau offers free civil legal services for the poor and threatened earlier this month to bring a lawsuit over the health care coverage.

The governor’s chief attorney, Jervis Finney, said he would not respond directly to the lawsuit.

“The judicial proceedings will naturally take their course, and the governor and his advisers have the policy aspects under review,” Mr. Finney said.

The lawsuit argues that although the cuts will save money in the short run, taxpayers ultimately will pay more over time because the children become eligible for state medical assistance after five years of U.S. residency.

Miss Bailey said immigrants sometimes are easy targets for officials looking to cut costs because they cannot vote.

“It makes them more vulnerable,” she said.

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