SACRAMENTO -- The California Senate has approved a controversial bill that provides health care for immigrants, regardless of their immigration status.
If signed by the governor into law, Senate Bill 29 will allow immigrants who are ages 19 to 25 and 65 and over and living in the state without legal permission to receive Medi-Cal benefits.
"They are contributing through hard work and they are contributing through $3 billion worth of taxes every year that we know of," said Sen. Maria Elena Durazo D-Los Angeles, the bill's author.
Durazo said the move will actually save taxpayers money in the long run, since she claims state money has already been paying for immigrants' health care for years.
"We as taxpayers are paying for their care. The problem is we’re paying for their care when they go to the emergency room, which is just to treat the symptoms," she said. "Emergency room care costs us far more than preventative care."
But before the bill was voted on, some lawmakers questioned if it’s money well spent.
"From a budget perspective, that cumulatively this could be very difficult," said Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa.
"Show favoritism to people that are not here legally at the expense of people that are here legally," said Sen. Jeff Stone, R-Temecula.
Stone made the argument that the money should instead go to another group in need.
"In California, we have 10,000 homeless veterans and instead of spending a billion dollars on people that are not here legally to give them health care, we should take that billion dollars and, as a first priority, take care of those 10,000 veterans," he said.
Following the 24-11 vote, the bill will go to the Assembly. From there, if passed, lawmakers will conform with the budget to determine how much funding there will be available. If it gets that far, then it will go to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.