WASHINGTON—Sen. Barbara Boxer plans to push for Washington to provide $250 million and perhaps more to help local and state governments pay the cost of healthcare to uninsured immigrants who seek legal status under legislation now before the Senate.
Officials from Los Angeles County--home to an estimated 1.1 million people in the country illegally, one-tenth of the nation’s total--have expressed concern that local taxpayers will be “left holding the bag” to pay for the healthcare costs.
“Our state has more at stake, I would suggest, than any other state” from the legislation, the California Democrat told reporters Thursday, citing the large number of immigrants living illegally in the state.
The immigration bill before the Senate would bar most immigrants seeking legal status from receiving federal benefits, such as food stamps and Medicaid, during the years it would take to become legal residents or U.S. citizens.
The amount of federal aid she is proposing is far short of the $4 billion provided to local and state governments under the 1986 immigration overhaul.
“I’m being pragmatic,” she said.
But Boxer, who is discussing her proposal with colleagues from both parties, said the amount could grow.
Her proposal calls for providing the money without increasing the federal budget deficit by using some of the money paid by applicants for legalization, much of which is now earmarked to further secure the border.
Boxer said that she also would seek to amend the bill to shorten by five years the amount of time applicants for legalization would become eligible for the federal “safety net programs supported by their tax dollars.”
Currently, many applicants would be forced to wait 15 years or more before gaining access to programs such as Medicaid. Under her amendment, the longest an applicant would wait is 10 years.