Washington state anti-Immigrant legislation shouldn't punish innocent children

Washington state's proposal to cut illegal immigrant children's health benefits clashes with lawmakers commitment to protect children and families.

WASHINGTON, DC – May 26, 2011 — Earlier this year, the governor of Washington state proposed to cut 26,000 illegal immigrant children enrolled in that state’s Apple Health for Kids program. Under a compromise reached by the state legislators, illegal immigrant children will be permitted to remain in the program however premiums for low-income families in the program will increase.

“About 725,000 total children — citizens, residents and illegal immigrants — are covered, according to the Department of Social and Health Services.

Miroslava Acosta, 4, holds a sign to protest Arizona’s decision to appeal to the United States Supreme Court during a rally at the Arizona State Capital in Phoenix on Monday, May 9, 2011. (Image: Associated Press)

Miroslava Acosta, 4, holds a sign to protest Arizona’s decision to appeal to the United States Supreme Court during a rally at the Arizona State Capital in Phoenix on Monday, May 9, 2011. (Image: Associated Press)

Under the approved proposal, families with illegal immigrant children and incomes above 200 percent of the federal poverty line will pay higher premiums. For example, a family of three that makes more than $37,000 a year would pay more, according to the Children’s Alliance.

The measure raises the monthly premiums for those families from between $20 and $30 to between $80 and $90. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate on Wednesday.

Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, said that by maintaining the program, the state protects the “most vulnerable.”

Those who supported the governor’s proposal say that in times of budget shortfalls, the government cannot afford to pay for children who are undocumented.

I understand the governor’s interest in being fiscally responsible and wanting to deal with extraneous expenditures especially when they would go to people who are not in the country legally, but it seemed wholly unfair and cruel to the innocent children who did not ask to be brought to America in the first place.

Proposed changes would change the cost of the program from between $20 and $30 per month, to between $80 and $90 per month. (Image: Washington Apple Care web site/click to enlarge)

Proposed changes would change the cost of the program from between $20 and $30 per month, to between $80 and $90 per month. (Image: Washington Apple Care web site/click to enlarge)

Besides immigrants, families in communities of color in Washington state were disproportionately impacted by the budget cuts, according to a report released by Washington CAN!

It gets back to an earlier post I had written about the concept of family values among conservatives.

One conservative definition of a family is the nuclear family with a man and wife and their biological children.

It seemingly excludes all forms of variations of family including mixed, blended, step, adopted, grandparent-run, single-parent families, and those some call deviant when talking about same-sex families. I say so because many strict social and fiscal conservatives oppose government programs and measure that support these latter forms of family.

Again, I grapple with how one can call themselves an advocate for “family” but be willing to have children succumb to illnesses that could be spread to other citizens, and possibly develop into debilitated conditions when untreated or lead to their death.

On the federal level, the immigration legislation called the DREAM Act would relieve undocumented children from the crimes of their parents who brought or kept them in America illegally.

The measure, which has been floating in Congress for nearly a year now, would permit undocumented children, including the roughly 65,000 that graduate high school in the United States each year, to earn a path to citizenship through college or military service.

The idea behind it was to permit children who were not asked to be brought here, but now know no other life than here in America, have little ties to their native land and are culturally American to be given legal status.

Congressional Republicans say they will not entertain the idea of this bill until the Mexican-US border is more secure.  

According to research, about 76 percent of all illegal immigrants are Hispanics, with Mexicans being the largest group at 7 million.

In reality though, talk about the “border” can also be perceived as code for talking about the truth.

Permitting the DREAM ACT to pass would mean the GOP would have to share that “victory” in the minds of Latino voters with President Barack Obama and the Democrats. Further, because those kids benefitting from the DREAM ACT would inevitably be permitted to file for their parents and other relatives, the Democrats would be insured with a tremendous voting base for years to come, diluting Republican political influence.

It would be great if there could be a compromise reached in the DREAM ACT case similar to how the Washington state lawmakers were able to do.

A radical, but plausible solution perhaps would be to limit the DREAM ACT beneficiaries’ sponsorship of family members to those residing in their native land. Such a proposal would encourage many undocumented immigrants to return home voluntarily in hopes of returning with proper status legally. It could reduce the number of undocumented people in America and increase legal immigration. Yes, such an idea would break families in the short run, but sometimes, the only way to move forward is through compromise.

Ideally, protecting children, families and the family unit would be something promoted by all lawmakers, but with the option of increased tax-cuts off the table, and the political fear of legalizing the undocumented, that is not always the case.

In these heated political times, getting a fraction of what you want is better than nothing at all. Now if only our legislatures would take that approach when it comes to agreeing on a federal budget.

Read more Politics of Raising Children in The Communities at the Washington Times. Follow Jeneba Ghatt at @JenebaSpeaks. Her work can also be read at JenebaSpeaks  and Politic365. She also co-hosts a Blog Talk Radio show called Right of Black which tackles current events and politics from a perspective not often seen in the mainstream media.


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Jeneba Ghatt
Jeneba Jalloh Ghatt is a former journalist turned lawyer turned citizen journalist. Currently, she manages her boutique communications law firm, where she has represented small businesses and nationally-recognized civil and consumer rights organizations before the United States Supreme Court, federal courts and the FCC. She also covers the White House and US Congress for the online news site Politic365.com while authoring her own influential blog JenebaSpeaks.com which is frequently accessed by top policy makers and think tanks, and the investment community. JenebaSpeaks.com focuses on the intersection of politics and technology and reports on policies and rules in the communications and tech sector.
Before opening her law firm, The Ghatt Law Group, which was the first communications firm owned by women and minorities, Jeneba regulated Comcast and Starpower as the Assistant General Counsel for the District of Columbia's Office of Cable Television and Telecommunications, and at one point was the only communications regulatory attorney in the entire city. She is founding member and policy chair for a new trade association, the National Association of Multicultural Digital Entrepreneurs and provides advice and counsel to new businesses in the tech industry, particularly small businesses owned by women and minorities.

Born in Sierra Leone, West Africa, but raised in the United States by her Catholic mom and Muslim dad, she started her college career creating web content for one of the earliest websites in history while working part time for the University of Maryland's Office of Technology. Following her graduation from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law, she founded and co-wrote one of the earliest blogs and since then has gone on to found and author six different widely read and influential blogs. She was one of only 22 writers and bloggers to attend the first White House summit for African American media.
She holds a Certificate in Communications Law Studies from Catholic; a Juris Doctor from there as well, and a Master of Law in advocacy degree from the Georgetown University Law Center where she first taught and lectured as a Staff Attorney and Graduate fellow at that law school's Institute for Public Representation. She later went on to teach Media Law at the University of Maryland at College Park and guest lecture at Yale Law School and Penn State University, College of Telecommunications. She is well skilled and versed with social media and manages several Twitter, Facebook, Linked In accounts and groups.
She sits on the board of several non profits and trade associations.

Contact Jeneba Ghatt


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