The President firmly believes that legal immigrants should have the same opportunity, and bear the same responsibility, as other members of society. Upon signing the 1996 welfare law, he pledged to work toward reversing the harsh, unnecessary cuts in benefits to legal immigrants that had nothing to do with moving people from welfare to work. As part of 1997's Balanced Budget Act (BBA), the President worked with Congress to restore Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to hundreds of thousands of disabled and elderly legal immigrants and, as part of 1998's Agricultural Research Act, the President secured Food Stamp restorations for 225,000 immigrants. The President's budget proposes $1.3 billion over five years to restore SSI, Medicaid, and Food Stamps eligibility to certain groups of vulnerable immigrants.


· Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The budget would let States provide health coverage to legal immigrant children and pregnant women under Medicaid and, in the case of children, CHIP. Currently, States can provide health coverage to legal immigrants who entered the country before the welfare law was enacted. But, immigrants who entered after the law was enacted (August 22, 1996) cannot get benefits for five years. Under these proposals, States could provide health coverage to those children and pregnant women through Medicaid or through CHIP. In total, the two proposals would cost $325 million over five years, and would restore benefits to approximately 55,000 children and 23,000 pregnant women by 2004.

· SSI Eligibility for Legal Immigrants with Disabilities. The budget provides approximately $929 million over five years to restore SSI and related Medicaid to legal immigrants who entered the country after August 22, 1996, lived in the United States for more than five years and became disabled after entry. Currently, with few exceptions, only legal immigrants who entered the country before August 22, 1996 can be found eligible for SSI disability benefits. This proposal would assist an estimated 54,000 legal immigrants by 2004, about half of whom would be elderly.


· The budget proposes to restore Food Stamps benefits to immigrants who entered the U.S. before August 22, 1996 and who subsequently reach age 65. By 2004, 15,000 elderly immigrants would have Food Stamp eligibility restored.

· Immigrants who were in the U.S. before August 22, 1996 and who were already 65 or over by that date had their benefits restored as part of the Agricultural Research Act of 1998 which restored Food Stamp eligibility to 225,000 legal immigrant children, senior citizens, and people with disabilities.


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