July 2003, Volume 9, Number 3
Education, Health, Welfare
Education. Should unauthorized children who graduate from US high
schools be eligible for financial aid and be treated as in-state
residents at publicly supported colleges? At least 18 states are
considering proposals to give in-state tuition, and they have reached
very different answers. Under 1996 federal legislation, states may not
provide illegal migrants with low tuition rates not available to US
citizens who do not live in the state. In most states, the difference
between in-state and out-of-state tuition is $10,000 to $15,000 a year.
Eight states -- Texas, California, Utah, New York, New Mexico, Oklahoma,
Illinois and Washington - have passed laws that try to get around the
1996 bar by granting in-state tuition rates on the basis of criteria
other than residency. Across the US, an estimated 50,000 to 65,000
unauthorized children graduate from high school each year. Proposals
pending in Congress, including the Student Adjustment Act and the
Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act), would
overturn the 1996 bar on unauthorized children being treated as other
state residents at public colleges.
The Colorado Legislature rejected a bill in April 2003 that would have
allowed illegal migrants who spent three consecutive years in a Colorado
high school to get resident tuition rates for the first year at a state
college if the migrant applied for US residency during that first year.
Jesus Apodaca, an 18-year-old Aurora honor student and illegal migrant,
made news in summer 2002 when he announced that he was unable to attend
college because he could not afford to pay out-of-state tuition rates.
Maryland's governor vetoed a similar proposal in 2003.
A bill was introduced in New Jersey that would allow illegal migrants to
pay in-state tuition at the state's three public universities, nine state
colleges and 19 community colleges if they attended a New Jersey high
school for at least three years and graduated, or received a GED in New
Jersey. The legislation has stalled since being introduced in June 2002.
Health Insurance. During the 1990s, there have been many attempts to
extend health insurance to 40 million uninsured Americans. Most US
families with an employed member obtain health insurance from their
employer, while elderly and poor Americans are enrolled in Medicare and
Medicaid. A separate Children's Health Insurance Program covers children
in lower income families.
Data released in May 2003 suggest that 58 million US residents, a
quarter of the non-elderly population, lacked health insurance at some
point in 1998, including 21 to 31 million who were uninsured for the
entire year. These data suggest that many people lose and gain health
insurance coverage during the year. Of those who lost health insurance
in 1996-97, 45 percent were uninsured for four months or less, 26 percent
were uninsured for five to 12 months, and 13 percent lacked coverage for
13 to 24 months, while 16 percent were uninsured more than two years.
Democratic presidential candidates Howard Dean, John Kerry, and Richard
Gephardt have proposed plans to extend coverage to about 30 million
additional US residents.
A 17-year-old Mexican girl received a new heart and lung at Duke
University, but died after surgeons transplanted organs from a donor with
the wrong blood type. There were 24,000 transplants in the US in 2002,
and an average 80,000 people on waiting lists for organs. There was
criticism of Duke because the girl was not authorized to be in the US,
but Duke noted that federal law says priority for transplants depends
solely on "medical criteria."
A bill introduced in the California Legislature would ban the use of
children as interpreters for their non-English speaking parents in
medical, legal or social service settings. Doctors and hospitals
objected, saying that being required to provide translators would
increase their costs.
Welfare Reform. Under 1996 welfare reforms, federal funds cannot be used
to provide Medicaid and State Child Health Insurance Program benefits to
legal aliens who arrived after August 22, 1996 for their first five years
in the US. About 20 states use their own money to cover costs for
pregnant women and children who are legal aliens, and the Bush
administration opposes a bill pending in Congress that would allow
federal funding to cover all immigrant children and pregnant women at a
cost of $120 million a year.
The number of people receiving cash assistance fell by over 50 percent
between 1996 and 2002, and the authors of a book entitled "Finding Jobs:
Work and Welfare Reform," aim to determine whether the decline in
caseloads will continue, and what will happen to ex-recipients. Most of
the chapters are cautionary, emphasizing that the jobs taken by
ex-recipients are often unstable, and that many of them do not offer
child care or health care benefits.
In 2002, the Little Hoover Commission released a report, "We the People:
Helping Newcomers Become Californians," that urged the creation of a
Golden State Residency Program to encourage immigrants to establish
residency, become citizens and vote, learn English, pay taxes, be better
parents and participate in civic affairs.
Robert Pear, "New Study Finds 60 Million Uninsured During a Year," New
York Times, May 13, 2003. Card, David and Rebecca M. Blank. 2002. Eds.
Finding Jobs: Work and Welfare Reform. Russell Sage. http://www.russellsage.org/