Update, 3/21/10: Late Friday night NCLR announced that they had officially changed their position and are now supporting the healthcare bill. The group cited "significant improvements." Yesterday, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) took a bold step by opposing the long-awaited healthcare bill currently being considered by Congress. Their main gripe? The bill didn’t do enough to ensure healthcare for even documented immigrants, and failed to include language that extended healthcare to residents of Puerto Rico. “We did not support the Senate passed legislation as of yesterday [emphasis added],” Jennifer Ng’andu, Deputy Director of the Health Policy Project, told ColorLines today when reached by phone. It’s unclear if anything about the bill or La Raza’s position will change, but yesterday the group made a far stronger statement to the Huffington Post, saying that calls for the “greater good” came at the expense of the “most vulnerable communities:"
Although the Senate-passed version of the health care reform bill offers new access to health insurance to many Latinos, it bars access to health care for legal immigrants, establishes a burdensome verification system that will erect barriers to enrollment for eligible children and their families, and leaves millions of others without access to affordable coverage.
While Democratic lawmakers have been pushing especially hard this week to garner enough support for their bill, NCLR’s opposition could complicate the White House’s effort to hold the votes of members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Earlier this week, Rep. Luis Gutierrez was against the bill before he was for it. Gutierrez, who chairs the caucus’ immigration task force, announced yesterday that he’d switched his vote to a yes. Although NCLR’s opposition may be seen by some as a symbolic step in the right direction on immigration and healthcare reform, others may disagree. While criticizing Rep. Artur Davis’ (D-Ala) vote against the healthcare bill on Wednesday night, Rev. Jesse Jackson said, “You can’t vote against healthcare and call yourself a black man.” No word yet on the status of the NCLR’s brown cards. More to come as this story unfolds.