Immigrants & Health Care — Re: Kamala Harris Backs Publicly Funded Care for Illegal Immigrants

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Kamala Harris speaks to reporters as Joe Biden looks on in Wilmington, Del., August 13, 2020. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Kyle Smith notes that when Kamala Harris was asked about benefits for illegal immigrants, she responded with, “Let me just be very clear about this. I am opposed to any policy that would deny in our country any human being from access to public safety, public education, or public health, period.”

That may seem like an inoffensively broad statement, with sufficient wiggle room on the specifics, but she has actually been quite explicit on the issue of health care. The Harris plan would “provide full benefits to the undocumented,” in the words of the Atlantic reporter who spoke with her campaign.

Needless to say, this proposal is problematic. “It is illegal to overstay a visa or to cross our border without authorization, but if you do, you will receive full benefits,” is not exactly a message conducive to the rule of law. Americans have long been frustrated that illegal entry seems to be rarely punished, but going out of our way to reward illegal behavior is a different level of lawlessness.

Then there is the cost. Last fall, I collaborated with Steven Camarota and Karen Zeigler on a paper that estimates the cost of allowing illegal immigrants to participate in the current Obamacare system. It’s about $10 billion per year in the most likely scenario, rising to over $20 billion if all illegal immigrants were to sign up. Those costs would increase, of course, if we move further toward a Canadian-style single-payer system. And the costs would really increase if we expanded the analysis beyond the existing illegal population and considered the impact of foreigners attempting to reach U.S. soil, legally or not, to receive the “full benefits” they would be immediately due.

It is that last point that caused the Manhattan Institute’s Chris Pope to dismiss the free-healthcare-for-illegals proposal as unserious. “That’s not a policy that any country in the world does,” he said at a panel event. “And I think that there is no way it would actually happen.” That we are even talking about such a policy is an indication of how far the Left has moved away from a rational perspective on immigration.

Jason Richwine is a public-policy analyst and a contributor to National Review Online.

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