Monday, March 08, 2010

Half the Utah Senate fell victim to misinformation about permanent resident children

The Utah Senate recently voted 14-13 against a bill that would remove a provision that bars permanent resident children from receiving benefits under the Children's Health Insurance Program, a government-sponsored program that covers children who do not have access to health insurance from their parents' employers. About 800 children are affected. The report comes from the Salt Lake Tribune.

But Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, said immigrants are expected to play by the rules upon arriving here -- and he said removal of a five-year waiting period would change the rules. Immigrants are expected to provide for themselves or have their sponsors do so for five years, he said.

Sen. Christensen clearly has not read the law. Citizens who sponsor permanent residents into the country promise to support them at an income level equal to 125% of the Federal Poverty Limit. Sponsors do not agree to provide health insurance for the people they sponsor. This would be an impossible promise to keep anyway: many families who earn this amount do not have access to employer-sponsored health insurance and would not be able to afford to purchase individual health insurance.

Sen. Christensen and his colleagues have jeopardized the health of 800 children who are legal immigrants and whose parents are already playing by the rules. Furthermore, the recent reauthorization of CHIP granted states the option to cover immigrant children and receive federal matching funds; previously, states could do so but had to use their own funds. Kids are generally cheap to cover and these are vulnerable kids, being both immigrants and poor. Sen. Christensen and his colleagues are not merely guilty of idiocy, they are guilty of a great sin.

I should note that this should not be a partisan issue. There are 30 State Senators in Utah, and only 8 are Democrats. At least 5 of the yes votes were by Republicans.

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