In a recent story regarding the bill in the Nebraska legislature that would provide prenatal health services for pregnant illegal immigrants, Governor Dave Heineman said
…he arrived at his position for “policy” rather than political reasons…
While we understand the statement, it is of course not true. Because not considering politics in your decision, is a political decision in itself — when you’re in politics.
In other words, every decision the Governor makes in his job has political implications, whether he wants them to or not. Same goes with nearly every elected spot there is. That’s just the way it works.
The Governor has said his view of the bill is based on the following reasons:
(Btw, this was in an OWH article that is no longer up on their site. Wth?)
- 1) A year ago, the Legislature gave 44-0 approval to LB 403, which bars giving state-funded benefits to illegal immigrants. Granting prenatal benefits to illegal immigrants turns that law upside down, he said. “Did you mean it last year?” he asked of lawmakers.
- 2) Thirty-five states don’t provide such aid to mothers.
- 3) Spending between $6 million and $7 million over the next 2¼ years to cover prenatal services for illegal immigrants takes money from other state priorities, such as K-12 education.
- 4) He is skeptical of claims that spending money on prenatal services will save money later. One group estimated that $800 in prenatal services would save $2,300 in health care costs during a child’s first year. Heineman said he hasn’t heard one doctor say that the state could reduce services if the bill were passed.
Of these, it’s really number 1, that we believe hits the issue for him.
Number 2 doesn’t matter. Number 3, while maybe true, doesn’t really hit it either. This isn’t a budget issue. And number 4 addresses the other side’s argument, which isn’t really his argument.
So for Governor Dave it gets down to: Nebraska taxpayers should not give further services to illegal immigrants.
The Pro sides states, “well, the kid born is going to be a citizen, so why not?” (By the way, it always kills us when the Pro-Choice people make this argument, but it mysteriously disappears when the actual abortion issue surfaces…but we digress.)
While this is true, it
begs the raises another question though, right? Why is the illegal immigrant mother in the U.S. in the first place? If she goes back to her home in Sweden before the baby is born, then the baby isn’t an American because he received prenatal care in the U.S.
So Heineman’s standpoint is, again, Nebraska should not knowingly give illegal immigrants tax payer services, which would be an incentive for more illegal immigrants to come to Nebraska. (And we add the “knowingly” to toss away the argument that “they are already using other services — roads, police protection, water fountains — so why not one more?”)
The argument for the bill (opposing Heineman) is: The mother is going to have a baby here. If it helps the baby why not give it essentially the same assistance before it is born that you will give it after it is born? If the baby would be a citizen, and therefore qualify for public assistance post natal, then providing the same assistance prenatal shouldn’t be that big of a leap.
That argument is almost immediately followed by the one that says if you provide prenatal care now, you will save money down the road for future problems after birth. Nearly every group is stating this, though Heineman seems to be asking for the proof. (This would seem to be pretty easy to chart since there are states on both sides of this law.)
The full-on Pro Life position is that care for the unborn should be given, no matter the immigrant status. They are essentially saying that it doesn’t matter if the unborn baby is an illegal immigrant (and for argument’s sake, you would have to say that an UNborn child is an illegal, right?). You should support life and providing prenatal care does that.
So now the politics of it all.
Heineman has a bit of a sticky situation on this almost automatically. Many say that he beat Tom Osborne back in the 2006 Republican Primary based on the immigration issue.
Osborne was in favor of giving in-state college tuition rates to the children of illegal immigrants. Heineman was against it, essentially saying that illegal immigrants shouldn’t be rewarded for the unlawful act of border jumping. Osborne said that those children shouldn’t be “hurt” because of the sins of their parents. Arguably Osborne lost the Primary based on this position.
And when you look at it, the questions on LB1110 are very similar at the core.
Should (unborn) children who didn’t make the choice of where to “live”, get the benefits of living in Nebraska as if they had been there legally?
Let’s go back to the assumption that an UNborn child (in this situation) is an illegal immigrant, until they are born. So the argument that you can either pay now or pay later is really an economics issue. It was the same issue on the college tuition argument, i.e., “Wouldn’t you rather have an educated illegal immigrant, than a non-educated one?” (One facet of that argument anyway.)
But that, again, jumped the gun of, “Are you OK with illegal immigrants being here, or the concept that such a law may attract more illegal immigrants?”
Of course, the strictly Pro Life position of Nebraska Right to Life and others is that this can be a life or death issue so screw the issue of where they’re from.
This is the most compelling argument, and anti-LB1110 response seems to be that illegal immigrants can get the aid elsewhere if they have to. In the end they say, Nebraska taxes shouldn’t be paying for this, no matter how noble it may be.
And Heineman? Well, this pits him against one of his main constituencies, the Pro Life groups. Does Heineman lose their support over this? Hmm.
As far as their support goes — if he is considering this — he could estimate that Pro Lifers are generally more conservative, and those who are more conservative are generally against providing services to illegal immigrants. So he may figure that where those groups have a split of opinion, they will give him a pass.
He also may figure that his opponent in the 2010 Governor’s race isn’t going to topple him on this issue, so he should stick to his guns on the basic principle of no additional services to illegals.
But…what about 2012? If he is up against Ben Nelson — could Nebraska Right to Life sit it out over their beef with both Heineman and Nelson? Could that cost Heineman the election at that point? Maybe, maybe not. (Frankly 2012 is too far away to read, but it could in theory become an interesting question.)
So would Heineman have had anything to lose politically by going the other way on this issue? Couldn’t he have been pro-LB 1110?
He could have made a conservative argument that it is a Pro Life issue and an economics issue and then hoped that the illegal immigration forces couldn’t stir up too much dust on it anyway.
Sure he could have then been labeled a hypocrite by the anti-illegal groups, but would their denial of support have affected Heineman? Who are they going to go with? Lakers? Nelson? And would it matter?
Of course Heineman may get to have his cake and eat it too. He may have a whip count that says the bill is going to pass over his veto. In that case he can say that he is against providing incentives for illegal immigrants to come to Nebraska, but as Governor will carry out his duties to direct those to provide prenatal care as per the law. And then hope that the issue subsides.
Don’t know how that would sit with the Right to Life folks, but it’s an interesting side note.
So does Heineman win or lose?
Well, he can easily say he is being consistent with his previous positions on illegal immigration. And he can point to his other Pro Life stances as well as argue that the Pro Life position isn’t the overarching one here. Or he can count on the fact that this is a bill that splits conservatives, but in the end, he is the only conservative around for the next two big elections.
Make no mistake, this is a bit of a hairy political decision for Dave Heineman.
The question is, does this spider have legs?
As the comment board rages on this one, here is what we ask:
1) While you will no doubt want to argue the merits of the bill, please also try to give your opinion of the political ramifications involved. That is still the gist of this blog.
2) As always, try to keep it clean, not personal, don’t copy and paste from other sources, and no links please.
3) And to steal from Jim Rome, please, Have a take and don’t suck.