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                     Office of the Press Secretary
                            (Paris, France)
For Immediate Release                                      June 16, 1999


I am pleased that today a bipartisan group of Senators, led by Senators Chafee and McCain and including Senators Graham, Mack, Moynihan, and Jeffords, have taken an important step in ensuring health care coverage for children by introducing the "Immigrant Children's Health Improvement Act of 1999."

When I signed the 1996 welfare reform law, I pledged to work toward reversing the unnecessary cuts in benefits to legal immigrants that had nothing to do with the goal of moving people from welfare to work. As part of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 and the Agricultural Research Act of 1998, my Administration worked with Congress to restore vital health, nutritional, and disability benefits to hundreds of thousands of vulnerable legal immigrants. Recognizing that more needs to be done, my budget includes a $1.3 billion proposal to restore health care benefits to children and pregnant women, nutritional assistance to elderly individuals, and disability and health assistance to legal immigrants who become disabled after they arrive in the United States.

The proposal introduced today, which is similar to the one in my budget, would provide health care coverage for over 55,000 children, allowing states to use Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for pregnant women and children who are legal immigrants, regardless of when they came to the U.S. I look forward to working with Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to enact this legislation to help many children lead healthier and more productive lives.