tags: Press Releases

Immigration Politics in Health Care Proposal Deeply Disappointing

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Rep. Gutierrez Joins Advocates to Demand Common Sense Policies and an End to Political Gamesmanship over Immigrants and Health Care

Today, Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) joined health care and immigration reform advocates to question the policy and politics behind new immigrant restrictions in the Senate Finance Committee’s draft legislation, released today.

Last week, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) stunned the country when he shouted “You lie!” during the President’s speech to Congress, after President Obama said that his health care proposal would not extend taxpayer-funded health care benefits to undocumented workers.  But instead of pushing back, the Obama Administration and some Senate Democrats have crafted a new proposal that would impose additional restrictions on access to health care for immigrants and other Americans.

On a telephonic press call held today, Rep. Gutierrez; Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice; Eric Rodriguez, Vice President at National Council of La Raza; and Reverend Luis Cortés, Jr., President of Esperanza, criticized the politicization of immigrant inclusion in health care reform. Listen to the press conference here.

Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) said, “From the onset of this health care debate, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus joined the Democratic leadership in accepting legislation that prohibited access to taxpayer-subsidized health insurance for undocumented immigrants.  However, in recent days, the Administration has allowed the Joe Wilsons of the world to shift the direction of the health care debate to one that is guided by fear rather than private enterprise, free market capitalism or even basic human rights. When we effectively bar the immigrant community from buying private insurance, we force them further into the shadows of our society, and we relegate them to emergency room care –at the highest cost to taxpayers.  There is no legislative issue that is not impacted by immigration reform, and until we enact a comprehensive solution, each and every legislative proposal to this Congress will be obstructed by fear, hate and bigotry against the most vulnerable among us. The White House has said it stands for comprehensive immigration reform; but you cannot say you want to bring people out of the shadows and then deny them non-government access to health care that they can use their own dollars to purchase.”

After reviewing the key provisions in the Senate Finance draft legislation, Eric Rodriguez, Vice President at National Council of La Raza, said: “Millions of American citizens and legal immigrants will not achieve the security and stability that the President has promised in health care reform, because these egregious proposals will put red tape and bureaucracy between patients and their doctors.”

The group expressed deep disappointment in Republican Members of Congress for continuing to demonize and scapegoat immigrants during the health care debate.  They were also shocked and dismayed at efforts by the Obama Administration and some Senate Democrats to attempt to appease these politicians by writing in additional restrictions on legal immigrants and U.S. citizens, and preventing undocumented workers from using their own money to purchase health insurance in the “exchange.”

Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, stated: “Republican demagoguery and distortions started the debate down a slippery slope of misrepresentations. In the Democratic proposals and the President’s plan there was never going to be access to taxpayer-subsidized health insurance for undocumented immigrants, and there was always going to be effective verification to enforce this bar.  But instead of standing up to this deliberate campaign of disinformation, the Senate Finance Committee and the White House seem to have validated it with proposals to expand unnecessary restrictions, add layers of additional verification, and worst of all, reward the bullying tactics of a Republican Party gripped by mendacity and nativism.”

According to the Reverend Luis Cortés, Jr., President of Esperanza: “The American Congress is losing its moral barometer.  Both parties are running toward the hardest positions to show who can be the toughest on the weakest among us.  We saw Joe Wilson assault the President by calling him a ‘liar,’ and things become worse as Democrats in the Senate rushed to deny undocumented immigrants the ability to use even their own money to buy health care.  We had been hopeful that the party that controls the House, Senate, and the Executive branch would bring sanity to the conversation about immigration, and we’ve been deeply disappointed.  All we can do at this point is look at each local election, one by one, and punish those individuals—regardless of their party—who deny rights to legal immigrants and children, as well as the poorest in our nation, the undocumented.”

For more information on the facts behind immigrants and health care proposals, please see:

America’s Voice — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.