Immigration Opponents: Hispanic Support For Healthcare Reform Part Of Quid Pro Quo

In a sign that it seems to want to capture the same anger that has threatened healthcare reform, a prominent group of anti-immigration activists are charging that congressional Hispanics are supporting healthcare reform because President Obama promised also to push immigration reform this year.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Thursday called for passage of Obama’s healthcare proposals, saying that it would expand coverage to 8.8 million Latinos, or 60 percent of the currently uninsured Hispanic community, according to Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of the CHC.

Congressional leaders and the White House are rounding up votes in the House needed to put the final reform legislation over the 216 needed for approval, with a vote on the measure expected Saturday.

“This bill is important for all Americans, but it is particularly critical to our Latino communities which have the highest uninsured rate of any racial or ethnic group in the country. The bill provides access to affordable health care to the millions of uninsured Latinos in this country through Medicaid expansion, access to health insurance exchanges, and subsidies to help low and moderate income families,” says Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), chair of the CHC Task Force on health. “The final health Reform legislation represents a milestone in our nation’s history as we take a historic step toward acknowledging health care as a universal right for everyone.”

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), however, alleges a quid-pro-quo for CHC votes in favor of healthcare reform in exchange for immigration reform, which they term as “amnesty” for the estimated 11 million undocumented aliens in the United States.

FAIR says the deal with the CHC coincides with talks between Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) over the shape of a potential immigration reform bill.

“The Schumer-Graham plan appears to be a near carbon copy of the McCain-Kennedy-Bush amnesty legislation that was resoundingly rejected by the American people in 2007,” says FAIR President Dan Stein, referring to an earlier attempt at immigration reform put together then by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), which ultimately collapsed due to intense conservative pressure. “The public believed amnesty was fundamentally unfair, harmful to the interests of law-abiding citizens and legal immigrants, and prohibitively expensive to American taxpayers. Since the last attempt to pass amnesty, U.S. unemployment has more than doubled, the size of the federal deficit has grown tenfold, and nearly every state government is facing a fiscal crisis.”

Obama this week endorsed the Schumer-Graham approach, which the president says “thoughtfully addresses the need to shore up our borders, and demands accountability from both workers who are here illegally and employers who game the system.”

Obama and CHC have made no secret of wanting also to enact immigration reform, without directly linking support for healthcare reform as reliant on immigration.

“I’ve spent the past week speaking at length with the president and his staff,” says Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), chair of the CHC Task Force on Immigration. “I shared with him that I believed that we could have a victory for every American who deserves affordable, high-quality health care and for the immigrants of our nation. I also told President Obama I would not sacrifice either goal. I believe we have a health care bill I can vote ‘yes’ for, and I believe we have a commitment to move forward on a comprehensive immigration reform package as soon as possible.”

The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.

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