Groups Fight Loss Of Daycare For Immigrants
HIGHLAND PARK, NJ – NJ Appleseed, NJ Citizen Action and several health care, consumer, faith, and immigrant rights organizations submitted a motion seeking permission to file an Amici Curiae Brief today in support of plaintiffs in Guaman et al v. Velez, challenging the State’s removal of legally residing immigrants who have not lived in this country for at least five years from the NJ FamilyCare program. Advocates assert that this decision violates the Equal Protection Clause of the NJ Constitution and will negatively impact the physical health of class members and the state’s health care system. Accordingly, they are urging the court to restore NJ FamilyCare assistance to people who were kicked off the program last year in an unfair and discriminatory manner.
“This unlawful cut to NJ FamilyCare is bad public policy and bad health care policy. It essentially gives the state’s stamp of approval on discrimination and denies 12,000 taxpayers access to affordable health care. This means a sicker population cared for at the increased expense of all New Jerseyans,” said Crystal Snedden, Health Care Campaign Coordinator for NJ Citizen Action.
On June 30, 2010 the State removed 12,000 legally residing immigrants who have not lived in the United States for at least five years from NJ FamilyCare. Advocates assert that the State’s action violates the equal protection clause of the NJ Constitution by discriminating against a particular group of people based solely on alienage. Additionally, they cite the serious physical harm that loss of NJ FamilyCare will have on the affected individuals and the burden this decision will have on the already fragile health care system in the state.
“Immigrant communities already face significant barriers to obtaining health insurance including language barriers, difficultly obtaining insurance at affordable rates, and disproportionately lower access to employer-based coverage. Many of those terminated from the NJ FamilyCare program will be unable to find affordable coverage elsewhere, leaving the state burdened with thousands more uninsured lives,” said Renée Steinhagen, Executive Director of New Jersey Appleseed Public Interest Law Center. “New Jersey will pay substantially more in uncompensated care and the affected individuals will suffer from lack of access to regular medical care, solely due to their status as immigrants.”
“It is an outrage that the state has singled out a particular group of people and deemed them ineligible to receive assistance from the NJ FamilyCare program. These are lawfully residing residents of New Jersey who pay taxes just like everyone else,” said Lazaro Cardenas, Steering Committee Member of the Latino Action Network. The state has essentially labeled these people as a disfavored group, further antagonizing the social stigma already experienced by the immigrant population.”
Finally, advocates allege that the State did not engage in the proper “Notice & Comment” process, and thus the public was denied their right to voice their opposition to this decision. “Instead of amending the FamilyCare statute through the legislative process, the Legislature avoided the wrath of the public by handing over the decision to the administration, which in turn enacted an unconstitutional change in policy without engaging the public in the normal notice and comment process, “said Renée Steinhagen. “In this way, amici seek to advance the interests of the plaintiff class in court rather than before the legislature and the administration, where they typically seek to protect the interests of immigrants and secure affordable, quality health insurance for all New Jerseyeans, especially the disadvantaged.”
Signers to the Amici Curiae Brief include: NJ Appleseed, NJ Citizen Action, New Jersey Policy Perspective, Statewide Parent Advocacy Network, BlueWave NJ, Democracia, Family Voices NJ, Lutheran Office of Governmental Ministries, Next Step, South Jersey Now – Alice Paul Chapter, Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of NJ, and Working Families USA-NJ.