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Jennifer Ngandu's picture

When children get sick, they depend on their parents to help them feel better, but if soup and hugs don’t work, it’s time to call the doctor.

However, consider this: Before the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) reauthorization bill was signed into law on February 4, 2009, immigrant children and pregnant women admitted legally into the United States were required to wait five years before they could receive health care services that are available to citizens.

No inhalers for asthma. No visits to the dentist. No prenatal care for developing babies. “Wait five years” was the response given to children and their parents, who could either delay seeking critical services or head to urgent care in the middle of the night.

Change to the law couldn’t come fast enough. Just days after birth, a child begins to lift his head. In a year, he could take his first steps. And in an instant, the child could begin to show signs of autism, hearing problems, or a multitude of conditions that would lead to lifelong consequences if left untreated.

It’s no wonder we are celebrating at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States. The President reauthorized CHIP with measures that strengthen health care for all of America’s kids and lift the arbitrary waiting period that affected too many Latino children. Hundreds of thousands of legal immigrant children are expected to be able to access federal Medicaid or CHIP services over the next several years, as states opt to cover their vulnerable populations.

Our nation’s leaders stood for the welfare of children despite obstructionist and misleading attacks by members of Congress that are part of a recent and unsavory trend of slighting immigrants, even though they pay taxes, serve in our armed forces, and contribute enormously to the economic well-being of this country.

At NCLR, we know that this outcome could not have happened without all of the voices that weighed in on the children’s health coverage debate. Thanks to our friends at MomsRising, more than 135,000 letters were sent to Capitol Hill on behalf of CHIP reauthorization, and it is expected that four million more children in the U.S. will now have access to health care coverage.

President Obama said it best when he insisted that the health care of our children could not be compromised.

“In a decent society, there are certain obligations that are not subject to trade-offs or negotiation—health care for our children is one of those obligations,” President Obama said. “That is why we have passed this legislation to continue coverage for seven million children, cover an additional four million children in need, and finally lift the ban on states providing insurance to legal immigrant children if they choose to do so.”

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