By Adam Edelman
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., on Wednesday said she took issue with Joe Biden’s claim that the 1994 crime bill, which he voted for, did not lead to mass incarceration in the U.S.
“I have a great deal of respect for Vice President Joe Biden, but I disagree. That crime bill, that 1994 crime bill, it did contribute to mass incarceration in this country,” the 2020 hopeful told reporters after a town hall in New Hampshire.
Harris added that the bill “encouraged and was the first time that we had a federal three-strikes law.”
“It funded the building of more prisons in the states. So I disagree, sadly,” she said.
Harris was responding to comments made by Biden, one of many rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, a day earlier in the same state. He said that the bill did not lead to mass incarceration.
“Folks, let’s get something straight, 92 out of every 100 prisoners end up behind bars are in a state prison, not a federal prison.This idea that the crime bill generated mass incarceration, it did not generate mass incarceration,” Biden said during a campaign stop.
Biden added that the bill had provided $10 billion for crime prevention measures.
“That’s what it was about,” he said.
Biden had been responding to questions from New Hampshire voters about the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act — commonly referred to as the 1994 crime bill — which has, in recent years, come under renewed criticism from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
Biden was a U.S. senator from Delaware at the time and supported the bill, which was later signed into law by then Democratic President Bill Clinton. It included billions in funding to states for new prisons, trained police officers, added more law enforcement positions and mandated life sentences for people convicted of a violent felony three times.
Critics have said the law disproportionately harmed African Americans.
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California considers health care for undocumented immigrants
By Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Lilian Serrano’s mother-in-law had lots of stomach problems, but she always blamed food.
Doctors at a San Diego-area clinic suspected Genoveva Angeles might have cancer, but they could not say for sure because they did not have the equipment to test for it and Angeles, who had been in the country illegally for 20 years, could not afford to see a specialist and did not qualify for state assistance because of her immigration status.
In September, Angeles finally learned she had gallbladder cancer. Serrano said she was in the hospital room when Angeles, in her late 60s, died about two weeks later.
“We don’t know if she would have survived treatment, but she was not even able to access it,” said Serrano, chairwoman of the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium.
“She never had a chance to fight cancer.”
Stories like that have prompted California lawmakers to consider proposals that would make the state the first in the nation to offer government-funded health care to adult immigrants living in the country illegally. But the decision on who to cover may come down to cost.
Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to spend about $98 million a year to cover low-income immigrants between the ages of 19 and 25 who are living in the country illegally.
The state Assembly has a bill that would cover all immigrants in California living in the country illegally over the age of 19. But Newsom has balked at that plan because of its estimated $3.4 billion price.
“There’s 3.4 billion reasons why it is a challenge,” he said.
The state Senate wants to cover adults ages 19 to 25, plus seniors 65 and older. That bill’s sponsor, Sen. Maria Elana Durazo, scoffed at cost concerns, noting the state has a projected $21.5 billion budget surplus.
“When we have, you know, a good budget, then what’s the reason for not addressing it?” she said.
The Senate and Assembly will finalize their budget proposals this week before beginning negotiations with the governor. State law says a budget has to be passed by June 15 or lawmaker forfeit their pay.
At stake, according to legislative staffers, are the 3 million people left in California who don’t have health insurance. About 1.8 million of them are immigrants in the country illegally. Of those, about 1.26 million have incomes low enough to qualify them for the Medi-Cal program.
“Symbolically, this is quite significant. This would be establishing California as a counter to federal policies, both around health care and immigration,” said Larry Levitt, senior vice president for health reform at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
If enacted, it could prompt yet another collision with the Trump administration, which has proposed a rule that could hinder immigrants’ residency applications if they rely on public assistance programs such as Medicaid.
The proposed rule from the Department of Homeland Security says the goal is to make sure “foreign nationals do not become dependent on public benefits for support.”
California is also considering a measure requiring everyone in the state to purchase health insurance. People who refuse would have to pay a penalty, and the money would go toward helping middle-income residents purchase private health insurance plans.
“We’re going to penalize the citizens of this state that have followed the rules, but we’re going to let somebody who has not followed the rules come in here and get the services for free. I just think that’s wrong,” Republican state Sen. Jeff Stone said about coverage of people in the U.S. illegally.
Many immigrants who are in the country illegally are already enrolled for some government-funded programs, but they only cover emergencies and pregnancies.
Serrano was one of hundreds of immigrant activists who came to the Capitol on Monday for “Immigrant Day of Action.” She and her husband spent the day meeting with lawmakers, sharing the story of Angeles.
“The conversation that I have is about the cost,” she said, describing her interactions with lawmakers. “The conversation we want to have is about our families.”
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