Michigan Immigrant Rights Center
Legislative Alert: Senate Joint Resolution C
February 21, 2017
Primary Sponsor: Joseph Hune (R-District 22)
01/31/2017: Introduced in the Michigan Senate and referred to the Committee on Families, Seniors and Human Services.
Bill Summary: This Senate Joint Resolution would amend the state Constitution by adding a new section that states, "A Person who is an illegal alien in this country is prohibited from receiving any type of public assistance from this State."
Background and Analysis: If this resolution is passed in the legislature, it would have to be approved in a statewide vote in the next general election in order to amend the Constitution of Michigan. Generally, undocumented immigrants and many documented immigrants, including most Lawful Permanent Residents ("green card holders") with less than five (5) years in that status, are ineligible for most public assistance. In addition, for decades, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has used the Department of Homeland Security's "Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements" (SAVE) system to verify proof of status submitted by applicants for assistance.
Were this amendment to be enacted following a vote of the people, it could affect Michigan's participation in the entire Medicaid program. Under federal law, non-citizens who are otherwise eligible for Medicaid but don't meet immigration status requirements must be eligible for Emergency Services Only (ESO) Medicaid. ESO Medicaid covers only the emergency life-saving medical treatment that most hospitals are legally obligated to provide regardless of income or insurance status. Termination of the ESO Medicaid program (or, indeed, the entire Medicaid program) would impose astronomical cost burdens on healthcare providers in Michigan who would still be legally and ethically obligated to provide the emergency treatment. It could also affect the Maternity Outpatient Medical Services (MOMS) program which provides prenatal and labor and delivery-related services to low-income women regardless of immigration status. MOMS was initially established through the "fetus option" in the federal Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
The broad language in the resolution seeking to ban all undocumented immigrants from "receiving" all forms of public assistance could also affect families with mixed immigration status where, for instance, an undocumented household receives food assistance in a pro-rated amount based only on the number of eligible household members. Any chilling effect this would have on the ability of U.S. citizen children of noncitizen parents to access benefits to which they are otherwise entitled could violate state and federal civil rights law.
A similar resolution was introduced by Senator Hune in 2013, but failed to pass in the legislature.