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Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas's picture

The organization of which I am the Executive Director, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, released this statement following the immigration reform bill that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. While we commend the Senate Committee for doing so, we still have deep concerns that both health care access and LGBTQ families are not included in the bill. --Jessica

Washington, D.C.—The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) commends the Senate Judiciary Committee for its passage of the Senate bill for immigration reform, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act” (S. 744). The group expressed concern, however, that the bill moves forward without two major civil and human rights considerations for aspiring citizens: access to affordable health care and equal rights for binational gay and lesbian couples.

“While we support the advancement of the Senate immigration reform bill, we are deeply discouraged and disappointed that the Senate Judiciary Committee has disregarded the health care needs of immigrant women and families and the civil rights of gay and lesbian binational couples. The ability of aspiring citizens to be healthy and productive and of all families to stay together are basic civil rights issues that must be addressed as the immigration reform debate advances,” said Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of NLIRH.

On Tuesday night, S. 744 was voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 13-5 vote. In the current Senate bill, aspiring citizens on the roadmap to citizenship are excluded from affordable health care options, like Medicaid, for the entire duration of their provisional immigration status and face an additional five-year bar under current law. The bill also excludes aspiring citizens from the gains of the Affordable Care Act during their period in provisional status. As such immigrant women and families may be waiting up to 15 years or more before they can access affordable health insurance and see a doctor.

The legislation also advances without ensuring fair and equal treatment of binational gay and lesbian couples. Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) have offered amendments to improve the Senate bill, and have urged members of the Committee and Senate to address health and LGBTQ inclusion moving forward.

The exclusion of health care access and gay and lesbian families in the Senate bill is out of touch with our country’s values. A majority of Americans support aspiring citizens’ inclusion in affordable health coverage options. In May, 164 organizations urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to address the restrictions and lift the 5-year bar currently imposed on aspiring citizens’ access to affordable health coverage programs like Medicaid. Additionally, a majority of Latinos support the inclusion of gay and lesbian families in immigration reform.

“The Committee’s decision to exclude aspiring citizens from access to affordable health care and fair treatment is harmful, unwise and short-sighted. We know that our families, communities, and economy benefit when families can be together and live healthy, full lives. We urge members of the Senate to work with Senators Hirono, Leahy and others as the bill moves to the Senate floor to resolve these issues and ensure that all families in the United States can live with health, dignity and justice,” González-Rojas said.

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