PRENATAL CARE: Davis Advocates $60 Million Expenditure
In a dramatic shift from his GOP predecessor Pete Wilson, who "took a hard line on illegal immigration," Gov. Gray Davis' proposed budget plan allocates $60 million for prenatal care for poor, pregnant illegal immigrants. The prenatal funding was a "hallmark" issue for Wilson, who "repeatedly battled the Legislature to delete such funding from the state Medi-Cal program," but was forced to continue the funding by courts in San Francisco and Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times reports. Wilson spokesperson Sean Walsh "attacked Davis' shift," saying the money is "going not to kids in our schools but to people who broke the laws." Davis spokesperson Michael Bustamante "downplayed the shift" however, saying, "We provided the funding first and foremost because the courts ordered us to do so." The funding provides prenatal services to 70,000 illegal immigrants in California, at a price of $1,000 each. The Times reports that officials estimate for every dollar spent on prenatal care, $3 are saved in treatment for infants with preventable conditions.
At The Capital
Davis' position "could strike a chord in the Capital, where questions of illegal immigration and welfare have stirred passions among Democrats and Republicans." The Times reports that the issue presents an "immediate challenge" for Assemblyman Rod Pacheco (R-Riverside), "the first Latino to lead the GOP in the lower house." Pacheco "entered the fray" yesterday, throwing his support behind Davis' proposal and putting himself at odds with conservatives in the House who favor Wilson's approach. "The overarching facet for me is the humanitarian side of it. Why would we not help a woman who is with child, and that child is about to become a U.S. citizen?" said Pacheco. Assemblyman George Runner (R-Antelope Valley) said, however, "There are probably better places to spend our limited funds. We also would be concerned about the message it would send. ... The first priority is to respond to the needs of our citizens."
Cleaning The Cobwebs
In the meantime, one of the court cases regarding the prenatal services is set to begin in state appellate court next week. The Wilson administration had appealed "preliminary orders directing that the state pay the costs" of the prenatal services. The attorney representing the immigrants, John Affeldt, "filed papers Wednesday asking that the hearing be delayed to give the new administration time to decide how to proceed." The Times reports that while "Davis has not decided how to proceed," he could ask Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D) to drop the appeals. Sources close to Davis call this "a likely step." In the future, the Times reports, Davis "can make the issue moot ... when he signs the budget for the 1999- 2000 fiscal year by simply leaving in place money for prenatal care" (Morain, 1/14). Click here for past CHL coverage of Wilson's efforts to block prenatal care for immigrants.