The American Experience
Monday’s federal holiday, whether you mark it as Indigenous Peoples’ Day or not, is a day to reflect on immigration. For some, it’s a day of mourning as newcomers invaded native lands. For others, it celebrates the American narrative of brave immigrants finding their way in a new country.
For Children First, Monday’s holiday is about children.
Admittedly, America’s notion that we are a country built entirely on voluntary immigration is inaccurate. Native tribes already lived here; African slaves were forced upon our shores; and indentured servitude was prevalent. Over time, though, people flocked to this country to pursue what would become known as the American Dream.
And they are still coming to find their American dream. From Haitians living under bridges in Texas to Afghan allies fleeing Taliban retaliation, America continues to be a beacon for many wanting opportunity for themselves and their families. While the debate rages about how to manage immigration, there are two things we can all agree on: 1) we can do it better and 2) all children must be cared for.
Thousands of children in Pennsylvania cannot access health insurance because of their immigration status, which limits how often they get medical care. These children are not getting regular care like annual checkups and regular trips to the dentist. Eye exams are tough too, one of the reasons 700 children and youth are signed up for free vision screenings at Give Kids Sight Day tomorrow. Minor ailments and infections turn into emergencies all because these kids are denied public health insurance.
As a nation built on immigration, this doesn’t make sense.
When Pennsylvania stepped up and created the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), we proudly promised to “cover every kid.” This bold move inspired the national CHIP program and now millions of children are living healthier lives. The disclaimer of “cover every kid except kids who, by no fault of their own, don’t have proper paperwork” contradicts the spirit of the CHIP.
From a public health perspective, it just doesn’t make sense to prevent these kids from getting coverage. But there is a moral obligation as well that we, a nation of immigrants, are refusing to offer basic health care to immigrant children.
When you look back on America’s history on Monday, take a moment and think about the present too. Our country’s immigration story continues, and we have an opportunity to write happy and healthy chapters for thousands of children.