Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday defended critics of Democratic health care reform plans who claim the proposals would provide subsidized health care to illegal immigrants. Kyl said Democrats have long sought to block curbs on public services for people illegally in the country.
Its a logical question for people to ask, Kyl said during a conference call with reporters, maintaining that during last years State Childrens Health Insurance Program debate and other legislative fights, Democrats blocked efforts by Republicans to include curbs on health care for illegal immigrants.
In the last couple of bills there were efforts to ensure that only eligible people would get the benefits those efforts were defeated by Democrats, Kyl argued, pointing out that hospitals currently are required to provide illegal aliens as well as anyone else with health care if they are in need.
That illegal immigrants get care ... its a big burden on hospitals, Kyl said.
Over the past two weeks, questions have become common about whether illegal workers would get subsidized insurance or benefits under health care reform. In Iowa, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) faced immigration questions at all four of his town-hall events.
None of those events saw heated exchanges over the issue and Grassley said there are no bills being considered that would extend benefits to illegal immigrants.
But the issue has sparked demonstrations of anti-immigrant sentiment among protesters in other instances.
During a town-hall event in Portsmouth, N.H., last week, an unidentified protester outside the event questioned why the government should spend money on providing services to illegal immigrants and went so far as to call for undocumented aliens to be killed. Why are we bankrupting this country for 21 million illegals who should be sent on the first bus one way back from wherever they came from. We dont need illegals. Send them home once. Send them home with a bullet in their head the second time, the man said, according to video of the demonstration.
While immigration issues remain a small part of the health care debate, immigration reform activists said they are concerned that it could spark a new round of anti-immigrant protests and argued conservatives and Republicans opposed to health care reforms should not play on the explosive issue.
The Republican Partys embrace of the nativist base is probably the most self destructive decision party leaders could make, said Frank Sharry, executive director of the immigration reform group Americas Voice. Sharry argued that given the heavily Catholic and socially conservative views of Latino populations in particular, Republicans are running the risk of turning Latino voters from a swing group to a reliable bloc for Democrats.
Henry Fernandez, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, argued that while using immigration concerns to energize the conservative base may provide a short-term benefit for reform opponents, it could result in an ugly and potentially violent wave of anti-immigrant sentiment.
Immigration is a constant theme. ... Its red meat for foot soldiers who are willing to hold up signs at town halls, Fernandez explained, adding that the language also encourages the participation of dangerous people in our public discourse.