Catholic bishops back Neb. bill to help pregnant immigrants

Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha, Neb.
Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha, Neb.

.- The Catholic bishops of Nebraska have praised the state legislature’s vote to restore taxpayer-funded access to prenatal care for poor pregnant women regardless of their immigration status or whether they are imprisoned.

Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha, with Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln and Bishop William Dendinger of Grand Island, applauded the passage of Legislative Bill 599.

Some unborn children are “substantially at risk” both before and after birth due to “factors beyond their control” such as family impoverishment and their mothers’ ineligibility for Medicaid, Archbishop Lucas said on April 9 in his capacity as head of the Nebraska Catholic Conference.

“The necessary response – the response that is consistent with pro-life principles emanating from human dignity – is to ensure access to prenatal health care, which is undeniably known to mitigate the risk,” he said.

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, a Republican, has promised to veto the bill.

He said that the state would become a “magnet” for illegal immigrants if the funding resumes. He also said it is “an issue of fairness.”

“Hard-working Nebraskans pay their taxes and obey the laws. Illegal aliens who don't pay taxes and don't obey the laws should not be receiving taxpayer-funded benefits,” he said in an April 9 statement.

Thirty senators, including 14 Republicans, supported the bill, the Omaha World Herald reports. A veto override will be necessary for the bill to become law.

Nebraska Right to Life has asked six pro-life senators who opposed the bill to support it.
The bill would restore services to about 1,100 illegal immigrants a year and about 40 legal residents who are in prison.

Archbishop Lucas said there are “legitimate concerns” about illegal immigration, which he characterized as a mainly federal issue. He said the bishops wish every pregnant woman in Nebraska was lawfully present under a “just” federal policy. However, the federal immigration system is “badly broken and in need of significant reform.”

He said unborn children are not “illegal aliens” but are “unique human beings and presumptive U.S. citizens, who will be fully citizens upon birth in this country.”

“Their health and well being must be favored in the proper balance,” the archbishop said.

Supporters of the bill have cited two research studies from 2000 and 2001 which found that immigrants decide where to live based on the job availability and the proximity of family members. The studies found that welfare benefits were not a factor in immigrants’ decisions, the Omaha World Herald says.

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