March 19, 2013

WASHINGTON—Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) president and CEO Kathy Ko Chin issued the following statement after yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing entitled “How Comprehensive Immigration Reform Should Address the Needs of Women and Families,” presided by Sen. Mazie Hirono (Hawaii):

“Women comprise more than half of all immigrants in the U.S., but are ill-served by our complex, archaic immigration policies that separate families; put workers, and particularly those who are low-wage earners, in danger for abuse; and prevent immigrant families from being able to fully integrate into our society.

Yesterday’s hearing, which was long overdue, was the first focused specifically on the needs of women and families. Senators Hirono, Franken and Klobuchar (via written statement) and several witnesses, including Asian American Justice Center president and CEO Mee Moua and Jennifer Ng’andu, director, health and civil rights policy project at the National Council of La Raza, called on Congress to enact policies that work for all families and support American values.

Unfortunately, our immigration policies do just the opposite. Lawfully present immigrant women must make difficult choices every day, putting aside their own health needs to afford basic health care for their children because the inhumane five-year waiting period locks them out of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Health reform imposes additional restrictions and bars undocumented immigrants from purchasing coverage with their own money in the new health insurance marketplaces. Moreover, despite the important advance that the administration recently made with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy for DREAMers, these hard-working young adults who call America home are barred from participating in health reform entirely.

Most Americans support comprehensive immigration reform and believe that aspiring Americans on the path toward legalization should have the same access to health care, including benefits under health reform and Medicaid eligibility. This is not surprising and shouldn’t be controversial. Everyone needs access to affordable, quality health care and no one should have to risk their well-being because they are locked out of our health care system.

It is critical that our laws make health care more affordable and accessible for everyone, both Americans and aspiring Americans alike. As we move forward to overhauling our broken immigration policies, we must not create new barriers to health.”

APIAHF is committed to fair and inclusive immigration policies that support the health and well-being of all Americans. Immigration policies must support the health and security of the entire nation and allow all immigrants to fully integrate into their new home, stay healthy, provide for their families and help strengthen the U.S. economy.