We now know that Immigration, especially illegal immigration is a big part of the American Health care debate. President Obama’s prime-time address to Congress and the nation on health care prompted a Republican congressman to shout “you lie!” when the president covered Health coverage for illegal Immigrants.
The President said that his proposal would not cover illegal immigrants, a remark that prompted Republican Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina to shout “You lie!”
The president is correct: The House bill contains a section (Sec. 246) titled “NO FEDERAL PAYMENT FOR UNDOCUMENTED ALIENS,” which states: “Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.”
However, conservative critics object to a lack of specific enforcement measures in the bill. They argue that the lack of a specific verification mechanism constitutes a loophole that would allow illegal immigrants to get benefits despite the legal prohibition. Republican Rep. Dean Heller of Nevada proposed an amendment to the bill that would have required the use of the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements program to check the citizenship of anyone applying for federal coverage or affordability credits. SAVE is the program used by Medicaid and similar entitlement programs. That amendment was voted down along party lines by the House Ways and Means Committee.
Republicans have a point here: More could be done to enforce the ban. But it’s worth remembering that, as a spokesperson for the American Immigration Lawyers Association told NewsWeek, attempting to get a health care credit would have legal repercussions.
“Making a fraudulent claim to an entitlement program when you’re not actually entitled to it would have serious consequences for any person,” the spokesperson told Newsweek, “but especially if it’s considered a false claim to citizenship, that would have serious immigration consequences that could ultimately lead to deportation.” Moreover, if an illegal immigrant lies and obtain public assistance benefit such as the new health care coverage, such person may never be able to Immigrate or get residency. One of the questions on the Green Card application is exactly that – Have you ever received public assistance or benefits form the State? A yes answer may result in a denial. Finally, any person who is not a US citizen and claim to be falsey in order to secure a benefit, may be barred for life from becoming a legal resident in the future. So the protection mechanism is already set in our immigration system. Most illegals live with the hope of becoming legal one day, I am sure that not many will risk it just to get coverage.
And Rep. Wilson certainly was out of bounds to call the president’s statement a “lie.” He later issued a statement apologizing for his “inappropriate and regrettable” comments.