There’s no easy way to say it: the future of two life-saving programs for our nation’s youth is in jeopardy. Both the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) process are set to expire in the coming weeks. Congressional failure to put aside partisanship and take action could torpedo the livelihoods of communities and families across Washington.
It’s almost unthinkable that these two bipartisan federal programs are now political bargaining chips, but under the Trump Administration, the unthinkable has become the everyday.
There are just a few weeks to act to save CHIP and DACA. Here is what these programs mean to Washington:
Health Care for Kids
CHIP has played a vital role in caring for our state’s kids and families. Since Washington adopted CHIP in 1999 and expanded Medicaid in 2011, tens of thousands of children have gained access to vaccinations and preventative care. Washington Apple Health for Kids (our CHIP program) currently provides medical, dental, and vision care for more than 66,500 children in Washington – enough to fill CenturyLink stadium for a Seahawks game.
There should be no question of whether to fund this measure — protecting children isn’t a controversial stance. Unfortunately, Republicans are holding CHIP hostage by demanding cuts to the Affordable Care Act that would eliminate health care for 700,000 people. As if that isn’t bad enough, the Congressional Budget Office predicts that a quick reauthorization of CHIP would save the government billions of dollars, and yet Congress still has not passed full funding. (1)
Lawmakers in Olympia are preparing for the worst in case Congress fails to fund CHIP. Some states have already run out funding, while several states including Virginia and Colorado have sent notices to families indicating that the state government will run out funding after January 31. During this short session, state legislators would be forced to come up with $176 million dollars to maintain CHIP at the same time they’re trying to invest more in public schools to comply with a Supreme Court order.
DACA in Washington
Undocumented immigrants are essential members of our communities who work and learn alongside their documented friends, family, and neighbors. In 2012, President Obama issued an executive order known as DACA that allowed about 800,000 young immigrants brought to the U.S. by their families to continue working and studying in the United States without fear of deportation.
Republicans have yanked away this promise of safety by demanding that DACA renewal come with aggressive immigration policies, including additional border walls, hiring 10,000 immigration agents, and ending family migration and the diversity lottery program. As Democrats and Republicans butt heads on the details of an immigration plan, an estimated 17,800 undocumented youth in Washington are now living in perpetual fear of deportation.
Washington Congressional leaders must draw a line in the sand by demanding a ‘clean’ DREAM Act that would provide permanent DACA-style protection for these immigrants and their families. Most of the Washington congressional delegation is united in their support of a clean DREAM Act, including Republicans Dan Newhouse and Dave Reichert. Unfortunately, Rep. Cathy McMorris has refused to support a clean DREAM Act.
Our representatives need to hear from us
The Trump Administration and Congressional Republicans have made it clear that they do not prioritize every child equally. We can’t afford to gamble away healthcare security for our children and basic protections for undocumented friends and neighbors by being becoming timid about holding our representatives accountable. As progressives, it is our duty to remind congressional Republicans and Democrats alike that there are some issues that should never be up for political debate.
We need to urge every member of Washington’s congressional representative to support a clean DREAM Act and full CHIP funding. Republicans need to be pushed to support these bills and Democrats need to hear that we expect them to oppose any government funding bill that doesn’t include both.
You can send a message to your representative in support of CHIP funding here: http://act.fusewashington.org/letter/SupportCHIP/.
You can also urge them to support a clean DREAM Act here: http://act.fusewashington.org/letter/SupportDreamAct2017/.