Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) is planning an amendment to the Senate’s immigration bill which would redirect funds committed to border security to reimburse state and local governments providing health care to newly legalized immigrants. Boxer plans to take $250 million, and likely much more, out of border security and use it to underwrite uninsured immigrants health care costs.
Supporters of the Senate bill have stressed repeatedly that newly legalized immigrants wouldn’t be eligible for federal welfare benefits. In almost half the states, however, they would be eligible for state and local government assistance. The legalization in the Senate bill would put a strain on already stretched government budgets.
Boxer’s amendment funds this assistance by using fees paid by illegal immigrants applying for legalization. Under the Senate bill currently, that money is earmarked for border security. The amendment is an admission that the rush to legalization will put a strain on taxpayers. It is also an admission that border security isn’t a big priority for many of those supporting this bill.
Boxer is also seeking to allow newly legalized immigrants to access federal welfare benefits sooner. Currently, it could take up to 15 years for immigrants to access the full range of federal assistance programs. Boxer would like to reduce that by 5 years.