Five years is a lifetime to a child
by John Russonello, Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 06:54:50 AM EST
(Cross-posted from Think it Through)
Like the Bill Murray character in the movie What About Bob, who is so immobilized by fear that he cannot move forward, the U.S. Senate took a "baby step" yesterday toward becoming a functioning institution which actually represents the hopes and needs of the rest of the country. The Senate passed a law providing health insurance to about 11 million low-income children who have not had access to affordable health care.
Last year the bill, known as SCHIP, died after two Bush vetoes and Republican opposition. This year, more Democrats in the Senate and House were able to expand SCHIP, but not before some Republicans tried to defeat it by raising the specter of immigrants using services. The Republicans objected to giving health care coverage to immigrant children whose parents are legal residents of the United States, who live and work in our communities and pay taxes.
One of the most contentious changes in SCHIP, and an improvement over the bill Bush vetoed, is the elimination of the current requirement that children of immigrants who are here legally wait five years before being included. Five years may seem like a flash to a U.S. Senator - just barely enough time to raise the $15 million+ needed for the next reelection campaign.
But five years is a lifetime to a child. That is exactly the phrase average Americans told BRS researchers in focus groups we conducted across the country for the National Immigration Law Center. When given the chance to think it through, the voters we heard from believe children should not suffer for a situation they did not cause.
Armed with the righteousness of their cause and that simple phrase - five years is a lifetime to a child- SCHIP coalition advocates won their case on Capitol Hill and persuaded them to include legal immigrant children. The president will sign this bill and the Senate will have done some good. Baby steps.
John Russonello is a partner in the opinion research and message development firm Belden Russonello & Stewart:Public Opinion Research and Strategic Communications in Washington, DC. He writes the blog "Think it Through."