The following is a statement from Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
“The flap over Rep. Joe Wilson’s outburst during the President’s joint Congressional address on Wednesday has exposed—for the entire nation—one of the Republican Party’s favorite political strategies: the illegal immigration wedge issue.
“Want to derail S-CHIP, a bill to provide health insurance to vulnerable children? Claim that undocumented immigrant children will benefit. Opposed to the President’s economic recovery proposal? Paint a picture of undocumented workers getting stimulus jobs over American citizens. Looking for a way to bring down health care reform? Insist that the President’s plan would allow undocumented immigrants to get taxpayer-subsidized health insurance, despite repeated statements to the contrary from the President, Congressional leaders, and even fact checkers who’ve ‘read the bill.’
“The illegal immigration wedge strategy is a tired approach that Republican politicians continue to employ, despite ample evidence that it just doesn’t work politically. During the 2008 elections, Republican candidates spent millions of dollars on immigration attack ads and lost. They also alienated the fastest-grown group of swing voters – Latinos – whose political power is only going to increase in 2010 and beyond.
“Joe Wilson (R-SC) was hardly the first to spread the lie that undocumented immigrants will get subsidized health insurance under the President’s proposal, and he won’t be the last. Just yesterday, Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) rushed to Wilson’s defense.
“Next week, anti-immigrant organizations are descending on Washington to push this further. Their line, echoed by Wilson, Kyl, Boehner, and others, is that the current health care proposals aren’t tough enough in restricting access to undocumented immigrants. But here are the facts:
- Undocumented immigrants cannot receive taxpayer-funded health insurance under the plans on the table. Section 246 of H.R. 3200 states “Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.”
- The federal government already has verification processes in place to ensure that undocumented immigrants don’t access public benefits programs. This includes the SAVE Program administered by DHS. If health care reform becomes law, the government will continue to use these systems to verify eligibility for the new programs.
- Adding additional verification requirements would be expensive and useless. When Congress added more citizenship proof requirements on top of the current Medicaid procedures, the results were breathtaking. In just six states, federal and state governments spent $16.6 million in taxpayer funds to implement the extra procedures, and turned up only eight undocumented immigrants. For every $100 in federal tax dollars used to subsidize these requirements, the government got only 14 cents in actual savings.
- Adding additional verification requirements would cut out eligible Americans. According to a GAO study of the new Medicaid requirements, half of states reported declines in Medicaid enrollment due to the procedures, with a majority of those rejected appearing to be U.S. citizens who could not meet the documentation requirements.
“So why are Republican politicians continuing to push a line that a) is fiscally irresponsible; b) would cut out eligible citizens; and c) will hurt them with Latino voters and others they need in order to re-emerge as a viable national party in 2010 and beyond?
“Because they just can’t seem to help themselves. It’s red meat for the town hall hecklers, and it’s red meat for the restrictionists coming to town next week.
“And why are some Democrats seeming to go along with it? America Blog is reporting that Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Kent Conrad (D-ND) are looking at adding additional documentation requirements to the Senate bill. Democrats were right to reject earlier Republican amendments that would have cut out eligible Americans in order to score political points. Rather than cave to the man who just insulted the President, they should stay strong in defending their proposal. Joe Wilson and his buddies have been trumping up this fake issue for years, and the Democrats finally have the chance to call them on it.”