Yesterday, the U.S. Senate voted to reauthorize the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), including a provision to expand access for legal immigrant children and pregnant women. The bill was approved by all Senate Democrats and seven Republicans. In the House, all but two Democrats voted for the bill, as did forty Republicans.
America’s Voice praises Democratic Senators and Members, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Speaker Nancy Pelsoi (D-CA), as well as Republicans like Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), who fought to keep the immigrant children’s provisions intact. Unfortunately, Republican Senators and Representatives filed amendment after amendment to gut these provisions and deny hundreds of thousands of Latino and immigrant children access to health care.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice: “SCHIP was the first test on immigration for the new Congress, and there are some clear winners and losers here. Winners include the Democratic majority and key Republicans who made good on a promise to America to work together towards progress and solutions. Losers include the many Republicans who fell back on their old playbook, beating up on immigrants as a way to try to undermine legislation they have no plans to support in the first place.
“We were disappointed to see that a number of Republican Senators and House Members are still in denial about the lessons of the November 2008 elections. Americans voted for change because they want the parties to come together to solve tough problems, not continue down the path of polarization and politicization. Nowhere is this truer than in the immigration debate.
“The illegal immigration ‘wedge’ issue was a colossal failure in the elections of 2006 and 2008, and it has failed again in the SCHIP debate. Many Republicans have talked about the need to ‘reach out’ to Latino and immigrant voters, but it is clear the Party has yet to learn the lesson.”
Clearly, the “scapegoat the immigrants” strategy is on a losing streak. However, some Republicans in Congress are now objecting to the stimulus package, which passed the U.S. House this week, citing the immigration bogeyman as their excuse. Echoing leading Republican strategists and leaders, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said, “it is about time the Republicans got a different piece of reading material and get off this illegal immigrant stuff.”
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