Joe Wilson's 'You Lie' Outburst Aimed at Immigration Wedge


9-12-09, 9:59 am

After the disrespectful outburst by Republican Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., during President Obama's speech to Congress on health reform this week, immigration reform advocates have stepped up their efforts to set the record straight about health reform and the immigration issue.

Frank Sharry, executive director of the immigration reform advocacy group America’s Voice, charged Republicans, like Rep. Joe Wilson, who shouted 'You lie!' at President Obama when the latter pointed out that the health reform package in Congress provides no public resources for undocumented immigrants, with cynically and misleadingly using the immigration issue to divide Americans.   “The flap over Rep. Joe Wilson’s outburst during the President’s joint congressional address on Wednesday has exposed—for the entire nation—one of the Republican Party’s favorite political strategies: the illegal immigration wedge issue,' Sharry indicated in a statement Friday, September 11.

While responsible media organizations and fact check watchdogs have repeatedly debunked Republican Party claims that President Obama's plan would benefit undocumented immigrants, the truth hasn't stopped GOP leaders or talking heads from repeating a series of talking points on the subject.   “Looking for a way to bring down health care reform?,' Sharry stated. 'Insist that the President’s plan would allow undocumented immigrants to get taxpayer-subsidized health insurance, despite repeated statements to the contrary from the President, congressional leaders, and even fact checkers who’ve ‘read the bill.’'

As written, the bill in Congress specifically excludes undocumented immigrants from access to public-financed programs created as part of the health reform package. Section 246 of H.R. 3200, America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, specifically states “Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.”    In fact, the federal government already operates verification programs to exclude undocumented immigrants from public programs. The 
   The federal government already has verification processes in place to ensure that undocumented immigrants are excluded public benefits programs,  for example, the Department of Homeland Security's Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program.

Public health advocates warn that excluding large numbers of people from the new health care system may present a risk for the public health generally. Meanwhile, civil rights activists point out that when we claim health care to be a human right, this principle includes all residents of the United States regardless of their status.

Sharry charged that adding 'additional verification requirements would be expensive and useless.' For example, when Congress added more citizenship proof requirements for Medicaid eligibility, federal and state governments in six states spent $16.6 million in taxpayer funds to do so. They turned up only eight undocumented immigrants.

In fact, the problem is so rare that when asked even the former Medicaid head under Bush admitted it simply wasn't a serious problem for the program.

What does end up happening, however, is that such procedures cut out eligible American citizens. America's Voice reported that a GAO study of the anti-immigrant Medicaid requirements resulted in declines in Medicaid enrollment due to the procedures, with a majority of those rejected appearing to be citizens who could not meet the documentation requirements. 

Sharry suggested that even with the truth about immigration and health reform in hand, Republicans simply might not be able to help themselves. Despite the growing number of Latino voters who are offended by the the Republican Party's stance on immigration issues, the GOP seems addicted to attacks on the President's policies using the anti-immigrant wedge, he said.   'It’s red meat for the town hall hecklers, and it’s red meat for the restrictionists coming to town next week,' Sharry explained, in reference to a host of extremist anti-immigrant organizations expected to descend on Washington to oppose health reform.