ABC News' Jordyn Phelps reports:
The President says he won’t extend health care benefits to illegal immigrants through the health care reform bill that he ultimately signs.
But he may do so indirectly through immigration reform.
The President, speaking at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Wednesday evening, said that the health care “debate underscores the necessity of passing comprehensive immigration reform and resolving the issue of 12 million undocumented people living and working in this country.”
White House spokesman Nicholas Shapiro, while he did not speak to the specifics of what the President’s plan for immigration reform will include, said, “The President has previously supported legislation which would require undocumented immigrants who meet a series of requirements (pay taxes, learn English, clean criminal record, pay a fine) to become legal residents and ultimately citizens.”
Under the President’s proposed health care plan, legal residents would have access to government health care.
Right now, many illegal immigrants get health care through private insurance they buy, or through emergency room care -- paid for by taxpayer-financed Emergency Medicaid, or through charges the hospital passes on to its paying patients.
While neither Congressional leaders nor the administration have yet presented a comprehensive immigration reform plan yet this year, the White House says it is committed to making progress before the end of the year.
In August, the President said at a presser in Guadalajara, Mexico, “I would anticipate that before the year is out we will have draft legislation along with sponsors potentially in the House and the Senate who are ready to move this forward, and when we come back next year, that we should be in a position to start acting.”
But with Congress currently gridlocked over health care reform, it is unlikely that we will see progress on immigration reform any time soon.
During a speech in Las Cruces, New Mexico, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, said,
"Once the Congress is done with health care, this [immigration reform] will be one of the top three priorities he has,” as reported by Las Cruces Sun News .
At the President’s request, Napolitano has been “leading the conversation” with stakeholders and members of Congress on the how to move forward on immigration reform.
- Jordyn Phelps