Montgomery County Commissioner Questions Whether Undocumented Residents Deserve Prenatal Care

On May 27, a previously uncontroversial initiative to educate and assist pregnant women at a Norristown hospital was threatened. At a Montgomery County commissioners meeting, Chairman James Matthews initiated a discussion about whether or not the program should continue when it benefits undocumented residents.

Didn’t the program’s reputation extend beyond Montgomery County? Matthews asked the county’s infant-health coordinator, Barbara Hand.

It did, she said.

“Does it go as far as Mexico?” he wondered.

Matthews noted that most who benefit from the program are undocumented residents. He voiced concern that programs that benefit more than just U.S. citizens encourages an influx in undocumented workers.

Matthews’s comments represent a change of heart from his previous stance on the issue. When asked before about the fact that the program assists illegal immigrants, he stated, “we’re not going to shut the door on someone who comes in, in that situation.”

It is true that the program primarily serves undocumented residents, who make up a large proportion of county residents who are in need of the program’s services. Health Department spokeswoman Harriet Morton says that since the inception of the program 2,063 women have benefitted from the services it provides, about “‘95 percent’” of whom are undocumented workers.

While Matthews eventually voted for the program and it passed as it always has, it is disturbing that a program to educate and assist pregnant women was questioned merely because it helps people who happen to be undocumented workers. To quote Matthews, it is ridiculous to “shut the door on someone who comes in, in that situation.”

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