Today’s introduction of the Lifting Immigrant Families Through Benefits Access Restoration Act of 2021 (LIFT the BAR Act) would level the playing field for thousands of children by expanding access to federal benefits for housing, health care, nutrition and other programs.

“No child in need of health care services, such as cancer treatment, asthma medication, or immunizations, should have to wait five years for care. No child should have to go to bed hungry in this country. Furthermore, the current policy of requiring pregnant women to wait five years for services is simply nonsensical and ludicrous,” said First Focus Campaign for Children President Bruce Lesley. “Children are children, and these are the things they need to thrive and grow into healthy, happy, productive citizens and individuals. Children cannot wait any longer. We have fought for more than a decade against the five-year wait — which spans half a child’s lifetime — and are pleased to support this legislation that ends these harmful waiting periods.” 

Introduced by Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), the legislation:

  • Designates anyone lawfully present in the United States — such as DACA recipients and survivors of child abuse, neglect, or abandonment — as “qualified immigrants,” making them eligible for many federal benefit programs
  • Eliminates the five-year waiting period on means-tested federal benefits for qualified immigrants
    Repeals barriers to accessing federal benefits for immigrants who have a sponsor
  • Prohibits states from imposing additional restrictions on qualified immigrants seeking benefits
  • Gives states and localities the flexibility to use their own funds to establish more inclusive benefit programs

See our full analysis here.

First Focus Campaign for Children vigorously supported the Immigrant Children Health Improvement Act (ICHIA), which became law in the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009. ICHIA gave states the option to cover lawfully present children and pregnant women under the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicaid. The LIFT the BAR Act would require states to cover them. 

The LIFT the BAR Act reverses restrictions enacted as part of the previous century’s Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA).