As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Persistent Presence Of Immigration Reform

The health care debate has predictably highlighted the open wound that is our failed immigration policy. As long as we have 10-12 million undocumented workers in this country, no matter their real benefit to the US economy (thank immigrants for the sustained finances of the Social Security system, or at least pay them back when you get your check), then every domestic policy will be interrupted with someone saying "will any of this money do to illegals?" It's common to scapegoat the alien other in times of economic stress, particularly when the policy that would bring clarity to their status sits unfinished. Luis Gutierrez has ended his silence on the inequities for the immigrant community in the health care bill, blasting the Administration for bending over backwards to please xenophobes.

“What is the administration’s answer?” asked Gutierrez. “To give him exactly what he said from this hatred. Because now, the administration has told us that if we’re going to have reform of our health care system … all those that go to the private sector in order to get their health care, that they will verify them. They will verify Social Security; they will verify their status in the United States of America.”

“So, and remember, we’re not talking about government health care, we’re talking about everybody is going to be required to get health care insurance,” said Gutierrez. “And so as we go to this big store, right, where everybody is required. And this exchange, the health care exchange, where if you don’t have health care you are required to go purchase it. When you go and attempt to purchase it, what does the administration say? The administration says, ‘You will have to prove that you are legally in the United States and have a Social Security number and a right to that.’”

I've said repeatedly how prohibiting immigrants from even purchasing health insurance with their own money will push them into ERs, the most expensive form of care for taxpayers who end up covering it. So this spite-based policy just costs us all money in the long run. Not only that, even LEGAL immigrants are blocked from receiving tax credits to which they are entitled. This is just the politics of fear and spite, and until we get comprehensive reform, it will continue. Here's Gutierrez - who's fairly close to the Administration - on that point:

There is no legislative issue that is not impacted by immigration reform, and until we enact a comprehensive solution, each and every legislative proposal to this Congress will be obstructed by fear, hate and bigotry against the most vulnerable among us. The White House has said it stands for comprehensive immigration reform; but you cannot say you want to bring people out of the shadows and then deny them non-government access to health care that they can use their own dollars to purchase.

This use of immigrants as a scapegoat for any domestic policy comes from an unscrupulous mainstreaming of far-right nativism, expressed most evidently by Lou Dobbs. This week Dobbs is broadcasting from the conference of a known hate group founded by a white nationalist. Media Matters and other groups have started a campaign to remove him at His hatefulness needs to stop.

Roberto Lavato has more.

...President Obama actually spoke to this tonight:

Now, as you know, there's been a little controversy about who exactly will be covered under reform. I want to be clear: If someone is here illegally, they won't be covered under this plan. That's a commitment I've made. But I also want to make this clear: Even though I do not believe we can extend coverage to those who are here illegally, I also don't simply believe we can simply ignore the fact that our immigration system is broken. (Applause.) That's why I strongly support making sure folks who are here legally have access to affordable, quality health insurance under this plan, just like everybody else. (Applause.) And we certainly should not let this debate on health care -- one so essential to Hispanic Americans and all Americans -- get sidetracked by those looking to exploit divisions and kill reform at any cost. That's what they always try to do.

If anything, this debate underscores the necessity of passing comprehensive immigration reform and resolving the issue of 12 million undocumented people living and working in this country once and for all. That's what I've said from the start. That's what I say tonight. (Applause.)

True, but not really speaking to the issue of denying people the ability to buy something.

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