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Extreme Groups Push Amendments to Bar Legal Immigrants, Block Millions from Buying Insurance

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UPDATE:  The Sen. Kyl amendment for tax credits, which would have undermined the confidentiality of tax information, went down after a brief debate. Senator Rockefeller called it dreadful, and Sen. Bingaman repeated that it was a solution looking for a problem that doesn’t exist.  Thanks to all who have made phone calls already.

nasty graphicToday the Senate Finance Committee is considering several key amendments on immigration to the current health insurance reform legislation.   The worst amendments are sponsored by Senators Kyl (R-AZ), Grassley (R-IA) and Ensign (R-NV).

Check out this alert by reform advocates working on the intersection of healthcare and immigration policy — please take a moment to call your Senators now to oppose amendments that are bad policy for all Americans.

As you’d expect, anti-immigrant organizations are calling on their members to light up the phones. FAIR, the leading anti-immigraton lobbying organization, which is recognized as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is urging its activists today to oppose any inclusion of legal immigrants in health insurance reform. Hate groups like FAIR will continue to spread lies about immigrants and health care.  And, they’ll continue to feed misinformation to their allies on Capitol Hill. 

We’ve reached a point in the health care debate where yesterday we had to ask legislators who support such measures, “What part of LEGAL don’t you understand?”

Senator Steve King (R-IA), as blogger Dave Neiwert pointed out at Crooks and Liars, was so eager to throw immigrants under the bus this week that he even eschewed traditional conservative values of the free market:

In typical fashion, Rep. King read the word “immigrant” and jumped on it, telling the Washington Times: “If anybody can, with a straight face, advocate that we should provide health insurance for people who broke into our country, broke our law and for the most part are criminals, I don’t know where they ever would draw the line.”  Never mind the fact that no one was advocating taxpayer assistance to undocumented workers, but simply the right to purchase health insurance with their own money.  Since when were Republicans like King so opposed to the free market?  Oh right – when it involves undocumented immigrants, who “for the most part are criminals,” according to King.

Free-market Steve King vs. Anti-immigrant Steve King. That pretty much sums up how absurd this debate has become.

I’m no health policy expert, but it makes sense that immigrants should have access to affordable health care.  Even Fox news anchors agree that it pays to let undocumented immigrants buy their own health insurance, instead of blocking them from doing so.

On a positive note, common sense has triumphed in some areas of the debate today. Senator Grassley proposed a new verification requirement that would have caused problems for U.S. citizens and immigrants alike.  Fortunately, It was defeated by a 10- 13 margin. All the Republicans, including Olympia Snowe (ME), on the Finance Committee voted with Grassley. All the Democrats opposed his amendment.

Your phone calls to Congress do matter — so don’t forget to tell Congress where you stand.

Note: Cross-posted at Daily Kos.