IMMIGRANT CARE: A Renewed Push to Restore Benefits
Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) and Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI) are expected today to introduce legislation that would represent the largest restoration to date of immigrant health benefits lost under the 1996 welfare law. A "broad coalition of anti-hunger, health care, religious and immigrant advocacy organizations that lobbied successfully" to restore other benefits to legal immigrants in recent years is rallying behind the bill, which would "restore health care coverage for hundreds of thousands of low-income pregnant women, children, disabled and elderly legal immigrants" (CongressDaily/A.M., 4/14). Congress "has moved twice to soften the blow of the 1996 law" and the Clinton administration has announced a proposal to restore some of the benefits to legal immigrants, but the Moynihan-Levin bill "goes well beyond" these restoration packages, AP/Nando Times reports. "It makes no sense to withdraw these benefits from needy people," said Levin, who gave a "rough estimate" that his measure would cost $2.7 billion over five years. Blunting "complaints by some Republicans" that the changes "represented a wholesale rollback of the welfare law," Levin said his measure would restore benefits in "a very pinpointed way."
The measure would extend food stamp eligibility to legal immigrant adults -- Congress last year restored this benefit to young, elderly and disabled noncitizens. Most significantly, however, is the Moynihan-Levin measure's provision that would extend health care benefits to legal immigrants who entered the country after 1996; all earlier restoration measures "benefited only legal immigrants who were in the country before the welfare law's enactment." Cecilia Munor, vice president of the National Coalition of La Raza, said, "This notion that the date of entry is the determining factor of whether or not a pregnant woman has access to health care is ridiculous. It's not morally smart and it's not economically smart" (Mittelstadt, 4/14).