WASHINGTON – Though the National Association of Evangelicals recently voiced its strong support for immigration reform, it does not call for undocumented aliens to be covered in health care reform legislation, says the group's president.
NAE president Leith Anderson told The Christian Post at a press conference on immigration reform last week that his group supports the current health care system in place for undocumented immigrants.
“[W]e are not specifically espousing that undocumented immigrants be included in any health care reform,” said Anderson, noting that the NAE has not issued an official position on the issue. “However, we obviously would stand for provision of health care as it now is, in emergency rooms and elsewhere.”
The current health care system uses federal and state tax money to pay for emergency care of illegal immigrants under the Medicaid program.
Anderson, who has sharply criticized the current immigration system as broken, added that the NAE would like to see the U.S. government provide a pathway for currently undocumented immigrants to gain legal status who will then be covered by any health care reform passed by Congress.
The NAE’s position on the issue of health care for illegal immigrants differs from that of its sister organization for Hispanic evangelicals.
In September, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the largest Hispanic Christian organization, released a statement calling for health care coverage for everyone in America.
"[W]e find it to be both morally and politically disadvantageous not to include coverage for all those currently residing in our nation,” commented the Rev. Nick Garza, chief operating officer of the NHCLC, which often refers to itself as the Hispanic NAE.
“To require immigrants to prove citizenship in order to purchase health care coverage stands as a defacto endorsement of racial profiling and continues to exacerbate the anti-immigrant sentiment currently embedded within the immigration reform debate,” he added.
NHCLC called for the government to extend the opportunity for undocumented immigrants to purchase affordable health care coverage as it does to the general public.
There are an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States, of which almost three-quarters are Latino.
Last week, Anderson and several other members of NAE’s board of directors called for comprehensive immigration reform that would treat immigrants respectfully. The evangelical leaders argue that immigrants, legal or not, are made in the image of God just like everyone else and thus deserved to be treated with respect.
After the press conference, Anderson and NHCLC president Samuel Rodriguez testified at a Senate subcommittee hearing in favor of comprehensive immigration reform.