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Who pays? Answer is not always clear-Immigrants add benefits and burdens
Kansas City Star ^ | 6-19-06

Posted on 06/19/2006 12:15:14 PM PDT by SJackson

Who pays? Answer is not always clear

Immigrants often foot bills themselves, but government steps in for newborns, emergencies.

The Kansas City Star
TAMMY LJUNGBLAD | The Kansas City Star
Luis and Lelicia Alvarado got ready recently to check their newborn U.S. citizen, Erik, out of Truman Medical Center.

Drink plenty, eat healthy, the nurse reminds Lelicia Alvarado.

Have you read the breast-feeding instructions, the nurse asks, watched the video?

Si. Si.

Know how to use a bulb syringe? How to take the boy’s temperature? Know to call a doctor if he has prolonged vomiting or diarrhea?

Si. Si. Si.

Now, about the bill …

In the end, the tab goes to taxpayers, who typically would pay $2,500 to Truman Medical Center for a trouble-free birth like this one.

Like more than half of noncitizens in the United States for less than six years, Alvarado has no private health insurance. Her husband’s employer offers coverage but at premiums that seem unaffordable.

Alvarado and her husband, factory worker Luis, say they are in the country illegally — they came from Mexico five years ago — so health programs for the poor don’t typically cover her medical bills.

Yet when it comes to labor and delivery — or to emergency services — Medicaid steps in.

Last year in Kansas, Medicaid coverage for immigrants cost $9.9 million. Nine in 10 cases were for childbirth. In Missouri, the cost was $4 million, divided among births and emergency services.

That immigrant health care accounts for less than one-half percent of the combined $8 billion-plus spent on Medicaid in Missouri and Kansas.

Alvarado’s newborn son — her third U.S.-born child and the third citizen in a family headed by illegal immigrants — is covered by Medicaid because the family makes so little money. Indeed, although most U.S.-born children of noncitizens are eligible for government health-care plans, only about half are enrolled.

“If there is an undocumented parent in the family, there’s a concern that by signing up their children they might get themselves mixed up with the bureaucracy and get deported,” said Jennifer Tolbert, an analyst for the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured. “But giving them health coverage is part of what puts them in a position to eventually contribute to our society in a meaningful way.”

After Alvarado was wheeled out of the hospital, she was on her own again for health care.

Partly because they tend to make less money and work in jobs where affordable health insurance is less common, noncitizen immigrants account for one in five of the country’s medically uninsured.

Consequently, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation recently concluded that “immigrants are less likely to have a regular source of care, to visit a doctor in a given year, or to obtain preventive care.”

When Alvarado or her husband get sick, they tend to delay any visit to a doctor and then settle their bills month by month. She understands that people are angry that expenses like the birth of her children, and the subsequent care of those citizens, are covered by the government.

“We know what’s happening, that people are angry at immigrants. We hear about it on the news,” she said.

“But we pay taxes too.”



EDUCATION | Class rolls swell with many who don’t speak English

An investment in our future

Public schools cannot turn away immigrants’ children, so programs to assist them abound.

The Kansas City Star
TAMMY LJUNGBLAD | The Kansas City Star
Mexican-born Juan Pablo De la O, 9, listened intently recently during his English as a Second Language class at Cambridge Elementary School in Belton.

Juan Pablo De la O raises his hand at Cambridge Elementary School in Belton like any eager third-grader, waving his arm up and down to get his teacher’s attention.

“Quiero decir algo. Quiero decir algo,” he calls out. “I want to say something. I want to say something.”

This is the one class period a day — English as a Second Language — when his teacher will understand him if he slips into his native language. Whether the Mexican-born Juan Pablo is in the country legally doesn’t matter; schools don’t ask because all children in the U.S. are entitled to a public education.

Spanish increasingly peppers classrooms and playgrounds across Kansas City. The ranks of Spanish-speaking children grow faster than overall enrollment in some districts.

This means spending more money on ESL teachers, bilingual textbooks and other resources. The immigrants are more likely to be poor, too, so federal and state taxpayers pitch in more for free or reduced-price breakfasts and lunches.

In 2000, children of immigrants comprised 19 percent of students (11 million out of 58 million), the Urban Institute found. Thirty years before, children of immigrants were 6 percent of students.

These children cost local and state governments money over the short term, said the Urban Institute’s Randy Capps.

But that money is “an investment just like educating any of our children,” he said. “Those costs will be repaid many times over when the children become productive workers. Not spending money on the education now would result in a larger number of children having difficulties during adolescence and early adulthood. They would wind up costing taxpayers and society further.”

Public schools cannot turn away immigrants, no matter their legal status, under a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision. About three in 200 elementary schoolchildren, and six in 200 secondary students, lack legal papers, the Urban Institute said. More schoolchildren have illegal-immigrant parents: 5 percent in elementary schools and 4 percent in secondary schools.

Where does the money come from to educate children like Juan Pablo, who moved here from Mexico last year?

• The federal government spreads out millions of dollars under Title III, a federal law that covers students learning English and immigrant families trying to assimilate. Kansas and Missouri together collect about $6.9 million a year under Title III. They enroll more than 30,000 Spanish speakers.

• Missouri and Kansas contribute more money for English learners. In Kansas, districts get 139.5 percent of the basic aid per student, if the student learns from an instructor with English as a Second Language training. If the child also is poor, the state adds about 19 percent of the basic aid on top of that. Missouri is launching a similar program.

• Districts sometimes kick in their own dollars to plug the gap after state and federal help.

The Shawnee Mission district — where Spanish-speaking students grew 81 percent in the last three years — spent $1.2 million on bilingual education last year. About $485,000 of that came from the state and about $140,000 from the federal government. The rest came from the general fund — “monies that could have otherwise been used for other programs,” budget and finance manager Tim Rooney said.


SOCIAL SERVICES | Straining a network

Immigrants add benefits and burdens

Aid is a last resort for many, who more than anything else want jobs and security for family.

The Kansas City Star

They come to this country for work, not handouts.

They’re likely to be poor: Among immigrants here less than four years, 56 percent are in or near poverty. (That number drops steadily the longer they stay.)

But, researchers at Harvard and Princeton universities have found, they seem more intent on getting jobs than relying on government aid. And they turn to welfare programs at far lower rates than U.S. citizens in similar straits.

Consider Maria and José. When they brought their son and daughter to Kansas City, they sweated through a summer without air conditioning in a tiny apartment. Roaches everywhere. Boxes for tables. Everyone sleeping on the floor.

Because everyone was in the country illegally, the family was ineligible for programs that might help with groceries or the rent. For them, the church provided, first finding castoff beds and then opening up its pantry of donated food.

In time, Maria and José found steadier work. They moved to Olathe, where they keep an old pickup and a small sedan running and their teenage daughter, Veronica, fixed with a cell phone.

Yet many immigrant families do add a burden to the network of social services when they start families here.

Precise numbers are difficult because state agencies that distribute aid don’t collect information on citizenship status of parents who enroll their American-citizen children in Medicaid, the food stamp program or the WIC Program (supplemental nutrition vouchers for women, infants and children).

Such mixed families — where Junior is a citizen eligible for government benefits but Mom is here illegally and ineligible — are common. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates two in three children living in families headed by illegal immigrants are American citizens, about 3.1 million children nationwide.

So Mom applies for food stamps on Junior’s behalf. The Center for Immigration Studies estimates households headed by illegal immigrants consume 5.6 percent of the country’s food assistance.

That’s because their U.S.-born children are entitled to the help, advocates for the poor say — even if the parents are often reluctant to apply.

Some believe that accepting benefits will require their children eventually to enlist in the military or that the money will have to be repaid.

“They hear the wrong thing,” said Sonia Medellin, a bilingual case manager for the Mattie Rhodes Center in Kansas City. “They also have problems with language or the forms.”

Cash payments from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families are possible only for those in the country legally and then only after a five-year wait.

And even families with citizen children can’t use public housing programs if the head of the household is in the country illegally.

“Most just go and find things on their own,” said Medellin. “They find out through word of mouth that they can get help for their children, and they get benefits as a last resort.”

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: aliens; illegalaliens; immigrantlist
Related articles from series.

One family’s struggle-six without documents, work hard, but they must rely on social safety net

1 posted on 06/19/2006 12:15:17 PM PDT by SJackson
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To: SJackson
"Such mixed families — where Junior is a citizen eligible for government benefits but Mom is here illegally and ineligible — are common. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates two in three children living in families headed by illegal immigrants are American citizens, about 3.1 million children nationwide."

Eliminate the "anchor baby" rule. New rule: babies born in the USA will become citizens only if at least one parent is already a citizen. Amend the Constitution, if necessary (but I don't think it is).

2 posted on 06/19/2006 12:21:53 PM PDT by Wonder Warthog (The Hog of Steel-NRA)
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To: SJackson

It's very clear. Legal immigrants pay in. Criminal aliens suck out.

3 posted on 06/19/2006 12:21:54 PM PDT by pabianice
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To: SJackson
Drink plenty, eat healthy, the nurse reminds Lelicia Alvarado.

I sometimes feel the need to "drink plenty" after I read some of these articles.

4 posted on 06/19/2006 1:18:25 PM PDT by DumpsterDiver
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To: DumpsterDiver

Insanity Prevention Therapy.
5 posted on 06/19/2006 2:42:26 PM PDT by NewRomeTacitus (Israeli-style security for our Southern border - all 1,950 miles of it)
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