I’m probably going to get myself in trouble with this one. There are people of a conservative persuasion in my circle of friends and extended family and most of them have learned not to send me email forwards of any kind because I have a bad habit of hitting Reply To All when I don’t agree with the email. This was one of those emails and it had been sent to almost 40 people, including me, so my reply is going out to a lot of people I don’t actually know. That usually results in whoever the friend or family member that forwarded it to me getting rather angry about the fact that I sent my reply on to the other recipients.
The email itself is the usual Republican attempt at bashing the current administration, but it was unusual in that it was mercifully short. It consisted of a video clip of some form of testimony from a hospital administrator about the high costs of providing medical treatment to illegal aliens. Here’s the video clip found on YouTube followed by the terse message that accompanied it:
How did we get to this and why are we continuing to let it go on? Time for new leadership.
My reply was not as mercifully short so I’ll include it after the jump.
Here’s what I sent to 40 mostly-strangers that will probably result in some folks being pissed at me for a few weeks:
I just wanted to take a moment to respond to this email. Carroll asks “how did we get to this and why are we continuing to let it go on.” I think that should be pretty obvious. It’s a result of eight years under Republican control of the government wherein all attempts at Immigration Reform where either thwarted or consisted of proposals to build giant walls (that won’t really keep anyone out) or to shoot people on sight.
Ironically, one of the few really good ideas President Bush tried to accomplish in his time in office was [to] come up with a decent reform of the immigration system only to have his own party do everything it could to kill the proposals. Why? Because he proposed a Temporary Worker Program that would allow illegals with jobs to apply to stay in the country for up to three years so long as they were gainfully employed (see Fox News circa January 8th, 2004: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,107707,00.html). One benefit of such a program would be that these temporary workers would be able to get health care insurance from their employers allowing them to do preventive care instead of waiting until they’re so sick they have to use an E.R. to get help which is much more costly. Bush continued to push for this reform for three years and he modified it along the way to include concessions to the Republicans such as the building of the wall along the border with Mexico and guarantees that this program would not put immigrants on a path to citizenship and yet the Republicans killed it in 2007.
The only thing that really came out of the whole effort was Great Wall of Mexico a.k.a the U.S./Mexico Border Fence. Since its start in 2005 we have spent $2.4 billion on some 600 miles of new fence along the border with Mexico and it’s still not finished. The GAO estimates that it will cost another $6.5 billion to maintain the fence over the next 20 years not counting repair costs from breaches. So far it’s been breached over 3,000 times by illegals at an average cost of $1,300 to repair each breach. To this date it’s nearly impossible to tell if the fence is reducing the number of illegal immigrants at all. The folks in the Secure Border Initiative claim it’s working, but they may be a little biased seeing as their jobs depend on it working. According to this Christian Science Monitor article from Sep. 2009 others think it’s a waste of time:
Wayne Cornelius, director emeritus of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California in San Diego, says he has conducted 4,000 interviews with illegal immigrants and potential migrants from Jalisco, Zacatecas, Oaxaca, and Yucatan in the past five years. His assessment:
“The existing border fortifications do not keep undocumented migrants out of the US. Not even half are being apprehended on any given trip to the border, and of those who are apprehended, the success rate on the second or third try is upwards of 95 percent.”
“There is no reason to believe that additional investments in the fence project – both physical fencing and the new “virtual fence” – will create an effective deterrent,” he says.
So the one thing the Republicans did to address the problem of illegal immigration — a problem which directly ties into the problem addressed in the video attached to this email — doesn’t work and is costing us billions. Putting up a fence isn’t immigration reform and it doesn’t impact the number of illegal immigrants relying on emergency care instead of health insurance when they need medical attention. According to the folks at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) the annual estimated cost for treating illegals is estimated at around $10.5 billion annually. Much of which the hospitals don’t receive any kind of reimbursement for (there was a program in place for awhile that did give hospitals some reimbursement, but I believe that ended in 2008).
Ideally part of the debate over health care reform should address the issue of the costs of treating illegal immigrants. Not only would that require diving back into the whole issue of immigration reform, but if President Obama were to even suggest the idea that it might be a good thing to cover costs of treating illegals the Republicans would shit a brick. This means this problem will persist even after whatever health care reform, if any, gets passed.
Carroll suggests that it’s “time for new leadership” as though the current administration is to blame for a problem that goes back literally decades. A problem that the former Republican President attempted to address and failed thanks to the Far Right elements in his own party who take an attitude of “I’ve got mine, go get your own” and who would apparently rather see illegals dieing in the street in the hopes that it would serve as a warning to others who might come here. Let’s be realistic: Even if we just allowed illegals to die in the street that wouldn’t stop them from coming to America. The rewards of finding work here compared to their own country are just too great. They already risk life and limb crossing the border in 100+ degree heat in total darkness in the middle of nowhere with armed border patrols actively looking for them and all the dangers of the desert confronting them, do you really think they’re going to worry about getting so sick they die in the street because we won’t give them needed medical treatment? Have you considered the cost that goes along with cleaning up after all those dead illegals? Or the fact that it’ll probably lead to an even greater rise in identity theft as they attempt to gain social security numbers in order to score health insurance? Nah, let’s not think about that. Let’s just pretend everything will be fine if we just stopped giving those damned illegals medical treatment when they most need it.
I realize that the majority of the folks receiving this email are probably on the conservative side and will probably be angry with me for responding at all, but I hope some of you will at least stop to think about the issue a bit more in-depth. This is a serious problem that deserves to be more than just a Republican talking-point to bash the Obama administration with. It is true that the costs of treating illegals is a big drain on our medical system, but the implication that it is the sole cause of the medical crisis is quite simply ridiculous. The folks at FAIR estimate that illegals make up 15% of the uninsured in this country, that means the other 85% are AMERICANS. That means out of the 45 million people in 2008 without insurance in the U.S. around 38.25 million were Americans.
Perhaps you’re OK with that. Personally, I find it abhorrent. The United States is the only modern post-industrial nation on the planet without some form of universal health care for its citizens. We’re arguably one of the richest countries in the world (approximately 10th richest at last count) and yet we can’t seem to find a way to provide medical coverage to all who need it. We need comprehensive reform of both our medical system and our immigration system. These two problems are too serious to be used for nothing more than political point scoring.
Which is really all this email forward was about. An attempt to use two very serious issues to score political [points] with like-minded people. How it ended up being forwarded to me is a mystery, but I hope you’ll at least consider what I’ve said. If I’ve pissed some of you off then I apologize in advance as that was not my intent. My only goal is to point out that simplistic arguments to complex problems don’t do anything to improve the situation. The constant calls to “change the leadership” when the current administration has only been in office a year doesn’t solve the problem. If the roles were reversed and it was a Republican in charge you’d feel that such calls were unfair and unhelpful so why should it be any different in the current situation.
I’ll shut up now.