09/21/2009 8:53 PM EST
Neither walls or moats can hold them back…
Roberto ‘Dr. Cintli’ Rodríguez
Congressman Joe “You Lie” Wilson has touched a raw nerve. Yet, he may
have also opened wide the proverbial Pandora’s Box regarding
“illegals.” Not dealt with properly by the President and the
Democratic party, Wilson’s incivility could end up unleashing a new
and more rabid anti-immigrant movement comparable to those seen in
Played out to its logical conclusion, this dynamic of not providing
health care for migrants, in the event of a pandemic, could lead to
calls for widespread quarantines and calls for massive dragnet raids,
massive incarceration programs and large-scale deportations. And as
occurs now, the inability to tell the difference between legal or
so-called “illegal aliens” – with the predisposed belief that all
Mexicans (Central and South Americans also) are “illegal” and an
illegitimate population – means that all Red-Brown peoples in this
country could be viewed and treated as suspect populations.
That aside, germs, viruses and diseases do not discriminate nor do
they ask for legal documentation. They cross borders freely in both
directions as neither walls or moats can hold them back. This is the
perfect example of why health policies should be in the hands of
health professionals, not ideologue politicians.
In the climate we live in, assuring Americans that only U.S. citizens
will be eligible to receive health benefits plays well in the
conservative political arena. However, from a health standpoint, it
borders on suicidal. People on all sides of the issue should recognize
the health implications of keeping 12 million people (or 20 million
people, according to immigration restrictionists) outside of the
nation’s health system.
CNN’s Lou Dobbs has made a career of scaring Americans into believing
that “illegal aliens” are the cause of all the nation’s problems. He
has even irresponsibly spread false myths about them spreading
leprosy. Yet, for the sake of argument, suppose Dobbs is correct in his
basic premise that migrants (illegal or otherwise) are apt to carry
and spread infectious and communicable diseases. The logical response
to this threat would be to quarantine… or deport… the 12-20 million
illegal migrants instantly. Yet, since even the most rabid
restrictionists acknowledge that it would be impossible to quarantine
or deport millions of people instantly, from a health standpoint, it
makes better sense to ensure that all people in the United States have
access to preventive health care. This would not solely be for the
sake of the migrants, but also for the sake of the entire U.S.
Under President Barack Obama’s plan, undocumented aliens will be
excluded from his health plan. As it stands now, legal residents who
have been in the country for less than five years are also denied many
health benefits. This backward policy will continue.
As La Opinion newspaper in Los Angeles recently opined, such a policy
is bad health policy and bad economic policy. However, Democrats, more
concerned with Wilson’s insult to the president and to Congress, have
been blind sighted to the extent that they will be forced to adopt or
maintain these medically unsound policies. In fact, to prove Wilson
wrong, they will be pressured into injecting or advocating
militaristic solutions [to find “illegals”] into not simply the health
care bill, but probably all future legislation.
The idea of intentionally excluding anyone from the nation’s health
plan is to court a massive disaster. It may lead to the drumbeat
demand that beyond employment – public and private – every service
rendered by government, from education to housing, must be done so
through its E-Verify program – a program designed to verify U.S.
Citizenship among job applicants. In rabid times, it could result in
an even more radical proposal; a demand to use E-verify for every
commercial purpose, including the checkout stand.
At the immigration kangaroo court called Operation Streamline earlier
this year in Tucson, I saw the future; because of the swine flu (H1N1)
epidemic, like a surreal movie, all the defendants – from México and
Central América – wore protective masks in the federal courtroom. In
the event of a more severe and deadly pandemic, it is highly likely
that our elected leaders and politicians will insist that only U.S.
citizens have access to immunization and health care.
The truth is that only where we permit other human beings to be
dehumanized would a society think of denying people the right to basic
health care. The other truth is that we nowadays live in a completely
globalized world, which necessarily calls for global solutions and
global [financial] cooperation.
It’s a health issue, stupid.
Roberto ‘Dr. Cintli’ Rodríguez, a professor at the University of Arizona, can be reached at: XColumn@gmail.com.