Despite New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson‘s generally immigrant-friendly politics, the Democratic presidential candidate has excluded illegal and recently established immigrants from his proposed universal health-care plan.
A recent article by the Associated Press discussed Richardson’s proposed state health-care plan, of which the governor intends to seek New Mexico legislature approval early next year. Although the AP article discusses only Richardson’s state proposal, the illegal-immigrant exclusion is also a part of his proposal for a national health-care system.
Immigrant-friendly politics in the past
Richardson, the only Latino presidential candidate, was born in California but grew up in Mexico City, where his father was a banker. As a teenager, Richardson left his family in Mexico and moved to Massachusetts, where he attended high school and met and married his wife of 35 years, Barbara. (For more on Richardson’s life, see the “About” section of his Web site, which includes a detailed private and political biography.)
Possibly because of his Mexican-American ethnicity and governorship of a border state, Richardson has been particularly in favor of immigrant rights in the past:
- Implemented a policy allowing illegal immigrants to get driver’s licenses, partly because uninsured drivers increase insurance costs for other motorists
- Sympthathizes with immigrants’ problems – paying taxes but not receiving benefits, no minimum wage or overtime, no worker’s compensation and no protection against sexual harassment
- In a December 2006 speech on immigration, Richardson called on lawmakers to solve the immigration through four steps:
- Securing the border
- Increasing legal immigration
- Preventing employers from hiring illegal immigrants
- Providing a path to legal residency for the 12-plus million illegals already living in the United States
The health-care plan
Richardon’s plan focuses (as most of the Democratic candidates’ plans do) on providing quality, affordable health care to every American – with the caveat that recently established, lawful permanent resident immigrants (LPRs) will not receive publicly funded health care benefits until they have lived in the country for five years.
Additional details from his proposed plan include:
- All Americans must have health insurance, which is their responsibility to procure
- Employers will do their part to help cover the insurance costs of their employees
- A sliding-scale tax credit will be available for families who cannot afford health care
- High interest rates for medical debt will be lowered to give families financial relief
- Insurance companies will be required to spend at least 85 percent of their revenue on direct health care (rather than on administration)
- All plans will be required to cover a set of proven preventive medical services
Is this really a surprise?
No. It’s not surprising that illegal immigrants should not be covered under publicly funded insurance plans; in fact, it would be absurd if they were. Legal permanent residents, however, should be covered, provided that they have undertaken to perform all of the tasks involved with gaining legal residency and/or citizenship. Not to do so would simply add to the currently existing problem of people in the United States being uninsured or underinsured.