The Children of Undocumented Immigrants Are People Too; Citizens, Even

One important reason to pursue some kind of comprehensive immigration reform is that until we achieve that goal, every other social policy issue is going to get dragged into immigration politics. Like this:

A bill under contention in Nebraska proposes joining 14 states and the District of Columbia in providing prenatal care for all pregnant, low-income women regardless of immigrant status under CHIP, the children’s health insurance program.

It is authored by Republican Sen. Kathy Campbell, a long-time advocate for women and children, who says the bill is “morally right because all children deserve to be born healthy.” Republican Gov. Dave Heineman opposes it, saying taxpayer-funded benefits should not reach people without legal citizenship.

Of course the children in question will actually be legal citizens once they’re born. And in general, I think comprehensive prenatal care meets every kind of cost-benefit test imaginable. Meanwhile, as in the general case of health reform it’s worth questioning the wisdom of attempting this piecemeal regulation of immigration status by social services providers. We could institute citizenship tests when people board buses or get into the Interstate on the theory that taxpayer-funded benefits should not reach people without legal citizenship, but it wouldn’t be a very good idea. The immigration system is broken and ought to be fixed, but there’s no reason to think that prenatal care clinics in Nebraska are the place to try to fix it or that infants ought to pay the price.