Months of Civitas DecisionMaker polling has established that a majority of North Carolina voters oppose illegal immigration. For similar reasons, a majority of voters oppose any expansion of government benefits to illegals. Yet, several of the programs funded by the current House budget (HB 1473) extend healthcare and education benefits to illegal aliens and the children of illegals.
As it turns out, certain initiatives funded by the new budget are not only aimed at assisting illegal immigrants to continue to reside in North Carolina illegally, they are the result of the lobbying efforts of the radical advocacy group El Pueblo. Among other things, El Pueblo supports:
Universal Healthcare for All Children
The House budget takes a major step toward universal healthcare by creating the $10 million-plus NC Kids’ Care program. This provision would expand health coverage to some 12,000 children from families with income between 200 percent and 300 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). Currently, 300 percent of FPL is $61,950 for a family of four, an income level that includes half of all families in North Carolina.
In order to enroll in NC Kids’ Care, families must be ineligible for Medicaid, Medicare and other government-sponsored insurance. The original version of this bill (HB 1476) clarifies that the program is not an expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), but is an entirely new program aimed at providing health insurance for children not eligible for SCHIP. As it turns out, the federal government does not allow SCHIP coverage for children from families that are in the United States illegally. What about Kids’ Care?
Whereas HB 1476 explicitly requires applicants for NC Kids’ Care to “meet applicable federal citizenship and immigration requirements,” this provision was silently dropped in the House budget. Instead, the budget merely stipulates that enrollees be residents of North Carolina and be “eligible under federal law.” Eligible for what is unclear. Presumably, the language means federal eligibility requirements for the dispersion of funds for children’s health insurance (i.e., SCHIP or something very much like it). In any case, even if NC Kids’ Care is to be partially funded through SCHIP, the state has the option of asking applicants to provide proof of U.S. citizenship. The state is also permitted to ask non-applicant family members to voluntarily provide information regarding immigration status.
“Family Planning Services” for Illegals
It is perhaps ironic that even as El Pueblo is pushing for universal healthcare for children, they are also lobbying for “access to information and education that helps prevent unintended pregnancy.” In compliance with El Pueblo’s legislative agenda, the House budget allocates $200,000 in recurring funds for “family planning services” — specifically for women who are uninsured and ineligible for Medicaid.
As provided by the N.C. Division of Medical Assistance, such “family planning services” include voluntary sterilization, pregnancy testing, and most forms of birth control (recall that the birth control pill is also an abortifacient). Moreover, while some “family planning services” do actually help women who want to have children, the state’s contribution toward healthcare for illegal immigrant mothers has skyrocketed in recent years. According to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, total spending for Emergency Medicaid services for illegal immigrants in North Carolina increased by 28 percent between 2001 and 2004. The bulk of this new spending — 82 percent — was related to childbirth and complications arising from pregnancy.
Increased Funding for the Disadvantaged Student Supplemental Fund (DSSF)
The House budget increases DSSF funding by more than $20 million with the explicit intention of enabling local school administrative units (i.e., LEAs) to “meet the needs of all of its students,” including at-risk students that need additional tutoring and counseling. As in past years, the budget also directs the State Board of Education to “develop guidelines for identifying and providing services to students with limited proficiency in the English language.” Such services are to include funds for “classroom teachers, teacher assistants, tutors, textbooks, classroom materials/ instructional supplies/equipment, transportation costs, and staff development of teachers for students with limited English proficiency.”
Higher-Ed Programs for Illegal Immigrants
Although Civitas polling finds that 70 percent of voters oppose giving in-state tuition to illegals, El Pueblo continues to lobby for state funding for scholarships for illegal aliens and their children. Along these lines, the House budget would create a $75 million scholarship program designated as EARN (Education Access Rewards North Carolina). The EARN program extends financial assistance to students from families with a total income of up to 200 percent of FPL, which is $41,300.
Insofar as EARN scholarships are for legal residents who qualify for in-state tuition, they will not be made available to illegal immigrants themselves. (Legal residency requires that a student possess the “legal capacity to remain permanently” in North Carolina.)
Other state programs, however — such as Learn and Earn — do seem vulnerable to exploitation by illegals seeking subsidized college tuition. The Learn and Earn program enables high school students to concurrently enroll and take courses in the University of North Carolina system. Under the program, students are able to earn either an associates degree or up to two years of college credit by the conclusion of the year after their senior year of high school. The program pays for enrollment fees, tuition, laboratory fees and textbook fees for students attending Learn and Earn high schools. Such fees are disbursed by local school administrative units (LEAs).
Nothing in the House budget prevents Learn and Earn monies from being used to send illegal aliens to college. This is because unlike the funds devoted to EARN scholarships, Learn and Earn money is apparently not restricted to students who “qualify as a legal resident of North Carolina and as a resident for tuition purposes in accordance with G.S. 116-143.1.” For this reason, state lawmakers should insist that Learn and Earn enrollees be eligible for in-state college tuition –—i.e., have the capacity to reside in North Carolina on a permanent and legal basis.
Finally, it should be noted that El Pueblo explicitly “opposes any efforts to involve state and local police in the enforcement of federal immigration laws.” (Thus El Pueblo is staunchly opposed to the Illegal Immigration Project that has so far survived the House budget process.) In short, El Pueblo wishes to coopt the state of North Carolina into ignoring, if not indirectly violating, federal laws that seek to discourage illegal immigration. Instead of assisting people in breaking the law, the legislature should instead take steps to insure that illegal aliens cannot continue to take advantage of state programs that are intended to help hardworking — and law-abiding — North Carolinians.