Opinion Columns & Blogs

Do away with SCHIP

Thank goodness Congress is coming to its senses! A move is under way to amend the so-called SCHIP program by prohibiting benefits for children of illegal immigrants.

The Washington Post reports that the Democratic leadership agreed to a more limited version of a bill to renew the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

An earlier bill died when the majority party failed to overturn President Bush's veto. Democrats previously had pushed for a $35 billion expansion of SCHIP, while the president held out for only $5 billion more, which wouldn't have sustained the program at existing levels. A new plan suggested by the administration would increase federal support by $20 billion over five years.

Republicans, who describe any measure to make medical care more affordable as "socialized medicine," vehemently objected because some states pay for treatment of the children of undocumented aliens.

How horrible is that!

Some lawmakers feel that treating the sick offspring of illegal immigrants just gives "those people" another reason to risk their lives, trekking across the Arizona desert so they can find back-breaking jobs Americans disdain in the meatpacking, farming or construction industries.

Thankfully, another misguided effort to reward illegal immigrants, the Dream Act, was derailed in the U.S. Senate last week. It would have given conditional legal status to immigrants, under 30, who graduated from American high schools, arrived here before they were 16 and had lived here at least five years -- after two years of college or military service.

It's too bad the GOP lost its majority in Congress just because a lot of unenlightened voters got their shorts in a wad over that little niffnaw in Iraq.

Such reversals on Capitol Hill have forced the administration to back off what would have been its keystone domestic legislation during the final two years of the Bush/Cheney regime. Tentatively named the Leave No Stupid, Sickly or Illegal Child Alive Law, the bill would have solved a myriad of problems facing this country today. Here are some highlights:

• Any child who, after 12 years of public school, failed to achieve a minimum score on a federally mandated exam would be put to death -- humanely, of course. This not only would spare taxpayers the cost of welfare, prisons and other costly government handouts, but it would also be one heck of a motivation for kids to drop their Game Boy and start studying.

• No federal money could be used to pay for the health care of poor children unless it was necessary to protect the health of more deserving citizens. In other words, if little Pedro showed up at the emergency room suffering from typhoid or Ebola fever, it would be OK to give him a shot.

• Schools teaching English as a second language would be denied federal funds. Any child who couldn't recite the Pledge of Allegiance in perfect English would be turned away at the schoolhouse door.

(This amendment was watered down from an earlier version, which stipulated that children of Mexican descent would not be admitted until their parents had signed a document apologizing for murdering Davy Crockett at the Alamo.)

• Children of parents who don't have Social Security cards would be denied government assistance for college. This clause has been embraced by several members of Congress who themselves are descended from immigrants from such countries as Italy, Hungary and Russia. Some said it's better for the United States to solve critical worker shortages by issuing temporary work visas to nurses from Ukraine and computer programmers from India than by allowing children of immigrants from south of the border to attend nursing school or to major in computer studies.

• The bronze plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty would be replaced with a new version of the famous poem, "The New Colossus."* In part, it now would proclaim:

Give me your tired, your middle class,

Your English-speaking masses yearning to breathe free

The well-educated refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these healthy, immunized people to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

* With apologies to Emma Lazarus.