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Immigration Reform Advocates Link Issue to Health Care

Immigration reform advocates on Monday attempted to draw a symbiotic line to the health care debate by arguing the two issues must be tackled to recharge the economy.

“Voters voted for Members of Congress because Members and the president said, ‘We’re going to take on these big issues,’ and we’re seeing that demand for change stick,— Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, said on a conference call with reporters.

“We realize that health insurance reform is a key agenda item for our president, and we also recognize that immigration reform is a key agenda item for our president,— Noorani added. “This is all about the fiscal crisis.—

Noorani voiced opposition to the citizen verification provision in the Senate Finance Committee’s health care reform bill, and said any legislation to come out of Congress this year must offer an affordable insurance option for all legal immigrants and full coverage for all children.

“From the health policy perspective, the more people you have covered and the more people you have paying into the system, it’s a better system for all of us,— Sonal Ambegaokar, a health policy attorney with the National Immigration Law Center, said during the call.

Kate Kahan of the Center for Community Change decried the lack of a public insurance option in the Finance mark. Kahan also noted that the bill does not eliminate the current five-year waiting period for legalized immigrants to be eligible for Medicaid.

Amendments to remove the waiting period for legalized immigrants are expected to be offered during this week’s Finance Committee markup.

Immigration reform has taken a back seat — like a host of other issues — to health care reform this year. Still, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) vowed in a statement last week honoring National Hispanic Heritage Month to continue his work on “immigration reform to help keep families together.—

“It’s important that health insurance is solved, and then the next issue is immigration reform,— Noorani said.

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