Should current undocumented immigrants get some public-healthcare benefits if their status is legalized?
U.S. House Republicans say no. Democrats say yes.
The answer to that question is dividing the House immigration-reform working group and causing it to break down. The last meeting is today.
The catch: years ago, when the group began meeting, the bipartisan group agreed that the newly legalized would not be a "public charge." That is, that they wouldn't get social-services.
But then California Democratic Rep. Xavier Becerra appeared brought up an aspect of the issue, which Republicans and some other Democrats thought was already agreed to and closed. Becerra, a rising star in his party, belongs to the same California delegation as Democratic leader and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
"I hope we can still reach an agreement," said Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a member of the immigration-working group. He declined to name names or divulge the contents of the agreement, but he blamed "Democratic leadership" for pressuring at least one member to withhold support.
"It's difficult," he said. "We've had agreements from long ago that all of a sudden wasn't agreed to by the Democratic leadership."
Frank Sharry, an activist with the America's Voices
immigration-reform group, said it's tough to figure out what the dispute is. The talks have been in secret. So it's unclear who advocated for what and what the specific source of the disagreement is.
"As I understand it, they talked past each other," Sharry said. "Democrats assumed
emergency Medicaid would remain, and Republicans assumed these people
would get nothing."
Advocates are frustrated that such a big bipartisan agreement could die over such a relatively small thing. The issue only involves those who would qualify for a pathway to citizenship, which would be smaller than the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants currently estimated to be in the country.
ABC made it sound as if the deal was dead: "congressmen will meet for the last time today without reaching an agreement on a House bill."
If this fails, it's a big blow to the immigration-reform effort, but it's not a killer. Republicans control the House and they can pass pretty much what they want. Of course, the Democratic-controlled Senate might not agree to the House bill and the House doesn't like the Senate bill.
Immigration reform was put a little more in doubt Tuesday when Sen. Marco Rubio, another leading Republican from Miami, raised doubts about the bill he had helped craft. He said there needs to be more border security in the Senate plan, and he's drumming up support for amendments in the Senate.
"If those amendments don’t pass," Rubio told radio-show host Hugh Hewitt, "then I think
we’ve got a bill that isn’t going to become law, and I think we’re
wasting our time. So the answer is no."