Despite videos like this, which has gotten almost 6 million views and is currently being forwarded around the internet, real compassionate change is coming to the American immigration system. Enacted this month, CHIPRA makes significant changes to MEDICAID and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program). Prior to CHIPRA, states received no federal funding to cover the medical expenses of legal immigrants in the United States for less than five years. [Kaiseredu.org] Some 17 states used their own state funding to provide healthcare to expecting mothers and young immigrant children, but now there is federal funding regardless of immigrants’ date of entry. CHIPRA more aptly covers this large yet overlooked uninsured population, shifting them from emergency MEDICAID to an insurance system that provides prenatal care and healthier Americans. [Kaiser Family Foundation]
Last night I had a the privilege to go to the St. John’s Block Party, a street music festival in downtown Rochester. Bands like Jeremy Messersmith, Chris Koza, the Meat Puppets, Cracker, and Cloud Cult entertained a wonderfully diverse crowd. Sikh men walked next to tattooed women, Muslim Somalis listened to rock music alongside Catholic priests, Greek entrepreneurs bobbed their heads an Irish storyteller’s bodrahn drum, children giggled and seniors smiled. The Karebs, an Iraqi refugee family who moved here a year ago, were taking in their first American rock concert. Ron loved the impressive air-conditioning in the new Lincoln MKT on display, while his two young daughters thoroughly enjoyed people-watching. His wife loved visiting with friends amidst live music, and their son Zeke was enamored with the party atmosphere in this usually quiet town. After the event, Ron told my father-in-law, “This is the first time I feel I am really in America.”
Wanting to unpack that, my father-in-law Pat asked Ron what he meant. “Before we came to America, I imagined it as a place where all different types of people could have a good time together and enjoy each other. Tonight I have seen it.”
Despite the fact his daughter failed her driver’s license test this past week because the DMV officer cruelly told her “Go” at a stop sign, despite the fact that some of his family is still waiting to enter the US legally, despite his hard first winter and the nativist talk shows on his television – despite all of this, America still is and still can be this place. Immigration legislation like CHIPRA and organizations like the Catholic Charities refugee resettlement program help make this happen.