National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America

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Children’s Health Victory A Good Sign That A New Approach To Immigrants Is Taking Root

February 03, 2009

Washington, DCOn Wednesday, the House is expected to vote final passage for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) bill and President Obama is expected to sign it into law shortly there after.  Among other things, the bill allows states to waive a five-year waiting period to extend health care insurance benefits to millions of legal immigrant children.  It is the first piece of legislation directly related to immigrants and immigration that has passed this Congress and reached this President’s desk.  The following is a statement by Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, a non-partisan pro-immigrant advocacy group in Washington. 


Many legal immigrant children will no longer be required to wait five years to access health insurance and health care, but this victory is larger than that.  Passage of SCHIP with the provisions for legal immigrant children is an indication that a new era is dawning in Washington.  For more than a decade, Congress’ approach to legal immigrants has been mostly what we can deny them, take away from them, or erect as barriers to their success and full integration.  We are overjoyed that a new page is starting to turn.


This year will see another fierce battle over immigration, including who is legal, who can earn legal status, and who can come legally in the first place.  Ultimately, the coming immigration reform debate will be about what role immigrants play in our society; whether immigrants are seen as cogs in an economic machine or integral members of our communities, with families and futures we should support and honor.  At the heart of it is whether we remain a welcoming country, supportive of the immigrants’ goal to be just as successful and productive as every other group of immigrants that has come to these shores.  A child’s health and a parent’s peace of mind are a building block of success in American society.


The SCHIP bill marks a first step from the punitive to the practical.  If the President and Congress continue to approach immigrants as partners with native-born Americans in the success of this country, then we are closer to the day when sensible immigration reform is crafted and enacted.  This is a good sign that a fair and just solution to what ails our current immigration system is within our reach.

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