Jeff Flake - U.S. Senator ~ Arizona

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CONCERN ABOUT THE IMMIGRATION BILL: “The immigration bill introduced to the Senate a week and a half ago would, if passed, allow illegal immigrants to access state and local welfare benefits … The financial impact of allowing potentially millions of immigrants onto state and local public assistance could overwhelm these programs’ budgets.” (Matthew Boyle, “Exclusive–-Sessions: Immigration Bill Gives Amnestied Residents 'Immediate' Access To Welfare,” Breitbart, 4/29/13)

FACT: If an illegal immigrant has a child who is a legal American citizen, the child, who is a legal U.S. citizen already qualifies for Federal benefits – with or without passage of a new immigration bill.

  • “According to estimates by the Pew Hispanic Center, at least 4.5 million children who are United States citizens have at least one parent who is an immigrant here illegally. The immigration status of the parents does not change the fact that these children are Americans. They are eligible, like any other children who are citizens, for state and federal benefits and financial assistance for education, if they meet the requirements.” (Julia Preston, “Q. and A.: The Senate Immigration Bill,” The New York Times, 4/22/13)

FACT: Illegal immigrants already qualify for certain state benefits – like enrolling their children in school – and this legislation cannot change the ruling of the Supreme Court.

  • In 1982, the Supreme Court ruled on Plyler vs. Doe. In this case, the Supreme Court struck down a Texas state statute denying funding for education to illegal immigrant children and also struck down a school district’s attempt to charge illegal immigrants an annual $1,000 tuition fee for each illegal immigrant student to compensate for the lost state funding.
  • Just last year, “part of Alabama’s immigration law that ordered public schools to check the citizenship status of new students was ruled unconstitutional Monday by a federal court … The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Alabama schools provision wrongly singles out children who are in the country illegally.” (“Alabama Public Schools Can't Check Immigration Status of Students, Court Rules,” FOX Latino, 8/21/12)

FACT: Under current federal law anyone who shows up at a hospital in the U.S. for emergency treatment, regardless of immigration status or ability to pay, must be cared for.  In certain circumstances some of this coverage, mostly for child birth services, may be reimbursed by Medicaid and some states have chosen to offer more benefits with state funds.

  • “Hospitals are legally mandated to care for all patients who need emergency treatment, regardless of citizenship status or ability to pay.” (“Report: US Hospitals Deported Hundreds Of Illegal Immigrants,” Associated Press, 4/23/13)
  • “Realistically, taxpayers are already paying for some of the treatment provided to illegal immigrants because hospitals are required by law to stabilize and treat any patients that arrive in an emergency room, regardless of their ability to pay. The money to cover the costs typically comes from federal, state and local taxes. A solid accounting of money spent treating illegal immigrants is elusive because most hospitals do not ask for immigration status.” (“U.S. health care could shrink for illegal immigrants,” Associated Press, 12/14/12)
  • “State officials say spending varies depending on immigration patterns and that during the economic slowdown, the number of illegal immigrants dropped. The definition of emergency care and the scope of services available through the Medicaid programs vary by state. For example, in New York, Emergency Medicaid may be used to provide chemotherapy and radiation therapy to illegal immigrants. In New York, California and North Carolina, it may be used to provide outpatient dialysis to undocumented patients.” (Phil Galewitz And Kaiser Health News, “How Undocumented Immigrants Sometimes Receive Medicaid Treatment,” PBS, 2/13/13)

WHAT IMMIGRATION REFORM DOES TO ENSURE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS ARE BLOCKED FROM FEDERAL BENEFITS: Currently – with the exception of ObamaCare – anyone who is not an American citizen or has been a permanent legal resident for at least five years does not have access to federal means-tested public benefits, and this bill reaffirms that law. In addition, the bill explicitly states that the people who qualify for legal status will not be covered under the requirements set forth under ObamaCare. In order to qualify for this temporary legal status, illegal immigrants must prove they were in the U.S. prior to December 31, 2011, have not committed any serious crimes, and have paid any federal taxes assessed upon them, as well as meeting a multitude of admissibility requirements. After six years in this status, the individual must renew their status by proving they have paid their federal taxes, have been gainfully employed during the initial six years of their status, prove their household income is above the poverty line, and most importantly, prove they do not pose a risk of becoming a public charge and will not be dependent on public assistance. After at least 10 years, if the six security triggers are met and the backlog of legal immigrant applicants has been cleared, then, and only then, will those currently here illegally have the ability to apply for a green card – and even then, they still will not be eligible to receive any federal benefits. The earliest any person who meets these requirements could naturalize and become an American citizen is after having spent three years in the U.S. with a green card. The result is that for at least the next 13 years, millions of people already living in the U.S. will begin paying taxes without receiving any benefits – resulting in a net surplus for our federal budget.

  • “It’s also worth noting, however, that the Gang of Eight draft summary says those newly legal workers won’t be eligible for either ObamaCare or most other welfare benefits for at least a decade, and maybe longer.” (Editorial, “The Immigration Windfall,” The Wall Street Journal, 4/16/13)
  • “Immigrants granted provisional visas would not be eligible for public-welfare benefits, and could not apply for tax credits when filing their taxes.” (Dan Nowicki and Daniel González, “Senators unveil outline of immigration-reform bill,” Arizona Republic, 4/16/13)