Sunday, March 05, 2006

Medicine for Mexicans: Public services and Illegal immigrants

A friend writes that Virginia has just passed a law requiring legal residence for medical assistance and that that Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico says illegal immigrants are stressing their health care system. Richardson, a latino Democrat, should know better.

With the brutal conditions that people sneaking up from Mexico risk, it seems insane that anyone would cross the border to take advantage of American Health Care, but likelier that they would need it after making the crossing. A couple of excellent movies, "El Norte" and "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" illustrate the point. In fact I have friends who have gone to Mexico to get treatment they couldn't get in the US. And besides, it's cheaper, and so much easier, to see a doctor in Mexico than to hire a "Coyote" to sneak you into the States.

Nowadays whenever a "liberal" speaks of compassion and the human cost he's accused of being a mushy-headed PC bleeding heart, so I'm going to skip all that and speak strictly in terms of economy and security.

People cross the border desperate to find work, and their labor, often at or below the minimum wage, without benefits that citizens would demand, usually the most grueling tasks, keeps our economy running. They pick the crops, clean the restaurants, and keep the homes of politicians who vote to make their lives even dicier. (We see these "nanny-gate" scandals again and again.)

Because they are here illegally they do their best to avoid the system and not use services that citizens and legal immigrants can take advantage of.

If an illegal gets a contagious disease, it is cheaper for all us taxpayers if he just goes to the clinic to get it taken care of, than if he doesn't get the care and the disease spreads among others, who are here legally or otherwise, and when it gets worse the treatment becomes more expensive in each case, and there are so many more cases!

If there are children here illegally who don't go to school, they are likelier to end up in gangs, and prisons are costlier than schools. (Funny how the right wing moans and bitches about the expense of schools and the politics of teachers' unions, but eagerly pump money into more prisons and shell out whatever the prison guards' unions ask for.) And a lot of those children, even if their parents are here illegally, are born in the US and are indeed citizens. And still, for fear of consequences to their parents, they miss out on school and health care. So we end up spending more on prisons. One should also note how more and more latinos are embracing Islam. I should be glad for that, but what Islam are they embracing? Are they learning – “Bismillah irrahman irrahim” – a discipline of love, mercy, and compassion that will help them to live fuller lives? Or are they getting the brutal puritanism that encourages contempt of diversity, that imagines armies of God and promotes violence and suicide bombs? Alienated youth who came up through gangs are too prone to the latter. Abdullah al Muhajir, nĂ© Jose Padilla, is one famous case involving an alleged “dirty bomb” plot. (Joe Loya writes more about the link between latin gangs and el-Qaeda at )

Yes, our public health care system is being very stressed. Blaming the illegals conveniently ignores the cut-backs and lowered corporate taxes, the obscene diversion of government funds to the war in Iraq. This is just another symptom of the structural decadence of America as health, education, and infrastructure are being starved so the rich can get richer.

The new law in Virgina requiring legal residence for medical treatment is penny wise, but pound foolish. It appeals to short-sighted jingoistic voters and echoes Virginia’s racist past, but the many Virginians who call themselves Christians should be ashamed of turning away the ill, the poor, the strangers... exactly the people that Jesus told us to embrace and care for.

As for Richardson, this only demonstrates the spineless vacillation, the lack of leadership and vision that is keeping Democrats out of power. Shame, shame, shame...

1 comment:

rockgyrl said...

If there had been laws when the "native americans" came over the Bering Straight, they'd have been illegal.

If there had been enforceable Indian laws when the white man arrived, they'd all be illegal.

We've made laws and decided that humans doing what humans have always done is now wrong (many things, not just immigration) and now look at the world!