Health Center Federal Policy

Immigration Heats Up On Both Sides of the Hill

By Joseph Miller, Federal Affairs Intern

Last week, we blogged that the Senate would begin debating S. 744, comprehensive immigration reform legislation – and they have.  Not to be left behind, the House has snapped into action as well, starting the committee markup process for several smaller bills (versus a single., comprehensive bill) and approaching immigration reform piecemeal.  Here’s where the action is this week on both sides of the capitol.

Senate-side:  Floor Debate Continues, Amendments Abound

Just one week into the Senate Immigration debate there are 100+ proposed amendments to be considered.  Although not all of the amendments will be voted on, there are a few high-profile amendments the media is watching this week on border security, enforcement, and the pathway to citizenship, for example,.  The  outcomes of these particular amendments may in fact impact the ultimate success of the reform effort.  One of the most contentious issues moving forward, will be health care for illegal immigrants will be an ongoing debate ; Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) are proposing lengthening the time before illegal immigrants can receive health benefits, whereas Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) will offer an amendment that allows all taxpayers to receive federal benefits like Medicaid.  There will be many amendments like these proposed and voted on over the next few weeks that could dramatically impact the delivery of health care in the future.  But Senate majority leaders  still remain optimistic  they’ll pass a comprehensive immigration bill by the July 4th recess and ensure a pathway for undocumented immigrants to finally have a pathway to citizenship.  In fact leadership has even said they are willing to work weekends until the bill is passed.

House-side:  Immigration Reform Picks Up Steam, One Bill at a Time

Although they are a few weeks behind, the House is not sitting idle while the Senate tries to pass their version of immigration reform.  This week the House Judiciary Committee will begin marking up two separate immigration bills: the “Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act” (H.R. 2278) and H.R. 1773, the “Agricultural Guestworker Act” (H.R. 1773). Unlike the Senate, the House is trying to pass individual bills to reform immigration policy bit-by-bit, rather than in a comprehensive, overarching manner.  As in the Senate, health care for immigrants has emerged as a heated topic of discussion in the House and we have already seen Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) drop out of bipartisan talks in the House’s “Gang of Eight” over the treatment of health care benefits for newly legalized residents.  Members are engaging in intense discussions around emergency care for illegal immigrants and access to benefits, among other issues, but House majority leaders also remain hopeful they can pass legislation by the end of the month.