Dec 21 2017
Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) submitted the following statement for the Congressional Record:
“In addition to the many, many problems I have with how this bill was secretly written without any attempt to work with Democrats, I also cannot support it because of the absence of the Dream Act and long-term funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
On four occasions, Republicans tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act with bills they drafted in secret. These bills had no input from Democrats – or really anyone who would have actually been affected by repeal.
Then they drafted a so-called tax reform bill, again entirely in secret, not consulting anyone outside a small group of Republican lawmakers.
So it’s not surprise that the bill they jammed through is actually nothing more than a tax cut for the richest Americans and large corporations. And all at the expense of American families, who will actually pay higher taxes.
And now, doubling down on their failed strategy of secrecy, Republicans came up with a government funding bill at the very last minute that ignores many of our highest-priority needs, including passing the Dream Act and coming up with a long-term solution for CHIP.
I hope that Republicans will finally realize that this isn’t the right way to govern. You’re not representing the country when you govern one month at a time and rush through poorly-written bills that only benefit certain special interests.
It’s time to return to regular order.
Now I’d like to speak about the absence of the Dream Act in this bill, a negligent decision that even the majority of Republicans in this country disagree with.
To say that Republicans have sent mixed signals on DACA is an understatement.
During his campaign, Donald Trump said he supported deporting all undocumented immigrants, including those who had registered for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program.
Later, he said DACA recipients had nothing to worry about. Then, in September, the Justice Department canceled the DACA program. I can’t even imagine the uncertainty that DACA recipients have felt since Donald Trump’s election.
DACA was put in place in 2012 by President Obama to remove the crushing fear of deportation experienced by hundreds of thousands of young people. These are outstanding individuals who were brought into the country through no choice of their own, at very young ages, and who know no other country than the United States.
In fact, the average DACA recipient was brought into the United States at the age of 6.
Now, there are nearly 700,000 individuals with DACA in the United States, approximately 220,000 of whom live in California. Each day, more than 100 lose their DACA protection, plunging them back into the uncertainty that President Obama relieved.
These young people study, they work, they pay their taxes. They’re patriotic. They’re American in every way that counts, and to leave them in such uncertainty is nothing less than cruel.
One family in particular has really brought this issue home for me, and that’s the Sanchez family from Oakland.
Maria and Eusebio Sanchez lived in the United States for more than 20 years before they were deported in August.
Maria was an oncology nurse and Eusebio was a truck driver.
They had no criminal records, they paid their taxes, they owned a home and they contributed to their community.
They also had four children, three of whom are U.S. citizens.
Little Jesus is just 12.
Elizabeth is 16 and currently enrolled in a community learning center.
Melin is 21 and is currently enrolled at UC Santa Cruz studying molecular cell and developmental biology. She wants to be a pediatrician.
Their oldest daughter, Vianney, is 23, and she is not a citizen.
She is, however, protected under DACA. She graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in psychology, and today Vianney is taking care of her three siblings.
Imagine being thrust into the role of caregiver to your three siblings after your parents are kicked out of the country, but your own ability to remain here also remains uncertain.
Vianney will lose her DACA status in August. Imagine the fear and stress she carries with her every day.
All DACA recipients have to register with the government, so immigration officials know where Vianney lives and works. They could show up any day and deport her, leaving her three younger citizen siblings behind with no one to care for them.
Sadly, the experience of this family isn’t rare. There are families like this across the country, people who came to America looking for a better life, who work and follow the law and contribute.
And by ignoring their plight, by not prioritizing the Dream Act, Republicans are telling them they’re just not important enough.
I simply can’t accept this and ask my Republican colleagues to look into their hearts and find their compassion. Tell these young people they’re safe. Tell them they deserve to stay and the Dream Act will pass.
This bill also fails to provide long-term funding stability for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and for community health centers. Both of these programs are vital to our communities and provide health care for millions of Americans.
CHIP provides health coverage for nearly 9 million children. In California, 1.3 million are currently enrolled in the program, and around 2 million are covered at some point during the year.
This program is absolutely critical to support children in working families that are moderate income and can’t afford private coverage. Around a quarter of kids on CHIP have special health care needs.
I’ve been hearing from my constituents about how important this program is.
Rachel, from Orange, wrote me to say, “There are many who depend on this assistance to stay alive. I was a type 1 diabetic at 12 with two disabled parents. If not for governmental assistance, I would be dead. Don't leave someone in this same situation hopeless.”
Kathleen from Arcata wrote to me and said, “I am a single mom and though my kids are grown now, I had the CHIP for them. I can’t imagine what it would be like to raise a child living in similar circumstances now without this program.”
CHIP is also an important program for pregnant women. In California, 30,000 expecting mothers depend on the program.
This care is so important for ensuring healthy moms and babies. If funding lapses, these expectant mothers are at risk of losing their coverage.
Funding for community health centers is also at risk.
There are more than 10,400 centers that see more than 25 million patients across the country.
In California, we have more than 1,500 centers that care for more than 4.4 million patients each year in California. If we don’t provide long-term funding for these centers, there’s no doubt they’ll have to limit hours, lay off staff or even close.
Supporting community health centers isn’t just the right thing to do for access, but for positive outcomes and cost-effectiveness as well.
Health center patients have an 18% lower rate of emergency room visits. Medicaid patients receiving care at health centers have costs that are 24% lower and the quality of care is exceptional. Patients do better and it costs less.
For all the talk about bipartisan support for these two programs, I’m profoundly disappointed that we have not addressed their funding in a meaningful way.
Health care coverage for kids and access to basic health care services in our communities should be a no-brainer. I strongly support these programs and hope we can provide stability soon.
In conclusion, this has been a bad year for governance, and it’s being capped off by yet another disappointing display by Republicans.
All of us saw and heard the thousands of Dreamers who visited our offices. We saw not only their passion but also their desire to make a difference.
Many of these young people live in fear every day. Mr. President, Congress has a chance to improve their lives and provide for them a positive, productive future.
But Republicans have chosen to ignore truly time-sensitive issues like DACA, CHIP and basic government funding. Instead, they chose to spend months on tax cuts for rich Americans and big corporations.
Tax cuts for rich people aren’t time-sensitive. Protecting children is.
Let’s get back on track, let’s add the Dream Act and CHIP to this bill, and let’s return to the good governance that our people expect.”