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[Congressional Record: June 26, 2001 (Extensions)]
[Page E1216]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access []
                               speech of

                          HON. SILVESTRE REYES

                                of texas

                    in the house of representatives

                         Monday, June 25, 2001

  Mr. REYES. Mr. Speaker, I am here to convey my strong support for the 
``Healthy Solutions for America's Hardworking Families'' package 
developed to provide critical health, nutrition, and protection 
benefits to legal permanent resident children and women. This package 
includes three pieces of legislation that take steps to address some of 
the most blatant gaps in our nation's effort to help those legally here 
in our country in times of greatest need.
  As Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and as a Member whose 
district includes a large Hispanic community, one of my top priorities 
is to advocate for the fair treatment of hard-working, tax paying 
families. The Immigrant Children's Health Protection Improvement Act, 
H.R. 1143, gives States the option of providing basic health care 
coverage to legal permanent resident children and pregnant women who 
arrived in the U.S. after August 22, 1996. As a result of the 1996 
reforms, lawfully present children and pregnant women who arrived in 
the US after 1996 must wait five years before they can apply for basic 
health care.
  Because many of these recent immigrants are concentrated in low-
paying, low-benefit jobs, these hard-working, tax-paying families, like 
so many citizens in our country, simply cannot afford private health 
care coverage. Thus, this vulnerable population cannot obtain proper 
health treatment such as preventative and prenatal care. Many are 
forced to delay care and rely on emergency room services to receive 
treatment. I believe this is an unacceptable risk for any American, as 
well as for current legal immigrants and their future American 
  The Congressional Budget Office estimated last year that this 
legislation would provide coverage to insure 130,000 children and 
50,000 mothers per year who have followed the rules and are in this 
country legally. In light of the fact that the Hispanic population is 
the most uninsured in our country, with over 33 percent having no 
coverage, this legislation is a critical step in meeting this need.
  A second component of this package is the Nutrition Assistance for 
Working Families and Seniors Act, H.r. 2142, which would permit 
qualified legal immigrants to obtain food stamps regardless of their 
date of entry. The majority of those impacted would be in low-income 
families with children and elderly. I have seen first hand, in my 
district, the detrimental affects of hunger and under-nutrition. Hungry 
children are more likely to suffer from adverse health effects and 
studies show that hunger has a negative impact on a child's ability to 
learn. Furthermore, pregnant women who are undernourished are more 
likely to have children with low birth weights, Likely leading to 
developmental delays.
  This important bipartisan legislation is widely supported and 
endorsed by many, including the National Conference of State 
Legislatures, National Association of Counties, U.S. Conference of 
Mayors, and the National Governor's Association. Restoring this 
component of our nation's safety net system is not only critical step 
toward ending hunger in our country, it is just simply the right thing 
to do.
  Finally, the third bill in the Healthy Solutions package is the Women 
Immigrant's Safe Harbor Act, H.R. 2258, which would allow legal 
immigrants who are victims of domestics violence to apply for 
critically needed safety services. These victims are frequently 
economically dependent on their abusers and isolated from their support 
networks. I believe we must do everything we can to support victims of 
abuse and get them on a path toward a better life.
  Mr. Speaker, restoring Medicaid and SCHIP, nutrition, and protection 
services to this group is simply good public policy, but more 
importantly, the provisions in the ``Healthy Solutions for America's 
Hardworking Families'' packages can mean the difference between life 
and death. We cannot let these children and mothers down. I urge my 
colleagues to support this important package.