Wednesday, October 27, 2010

warning: way off subject

THIS is a seriously non-maritime post. Be warned. You might be offended or fall asleep.

Not everyone from Massachusetts is a member of the communist party. Just most of them, I guess. Fellow non-radical Jay G, another unashamedly to-the-right-of-Marx type person like me, is another MA resident who doesn't drink the local kool-aid.

Jay posted a thought-provoking entry today, on the high cost of subsidized health care for illegal aliens.

Massachusetts is an unofficial safe haven for illegals. I know this firsthand, because I am related by marriage to a passel of illegals here in Massachusetts, and we talk about it.
There's a pecking order involved here. My brother-in-law and his family are South American. They believe in staying under the radar. While it seems like nitpicking to us, there is an important difference in the illegal community between people who maintain a valid visitor's visa (but overstay), and border-jumpers. The difference isn't germane to most citizens, but my brother-in-law is quick to point out that he came here with permission, after being given a background check, the US and his home country know how to find him if they wanted to, and that should he be given a deportation order, he would be allowed time to pack up his life and leave without being jailed in the process. My brother-in-law frowns at border jumpers, who come here without being subject to any checks or controlling documents. He always shakes his head and says "creeminals. Most."
The Massachusetts illegal population is very diverse. Most of us, myself included, immediately assume that most illegals are Mexican, and for the most part, it's a safe assumption. Many non-hispanic illegals display a lot of angst and anger towards Mexico these days, as the border-jumpers are viewed as having poisoned the well.
As I said, though, while all this sounds like sophistry, I see a parallel here- like most MA residents, I'm of Irish ancestry. I consider myself an Irish-American, although I'm not. I can maybe recite a dozen Gaelic phrases. Consider, however, the experience, clannishness, and culture gap between a MA resident of Irish and Italian ancestry. Only in the past generation has it become a modest difference. So I'm not so quick to dismiss my brother-in-law's dichotomy of illegals and other illegals.
Health care costs are only the most public of the costs incurred to MA residents for accommodating illegals. There are plenty of legal and other fiscal bills come due, too. Like a modern tragedy of the commons, most illegals are here to make money, period. Some do so in inoffensive ways, and some do not, but all act in self-interest, just like most of us who have found loopholes to reduce our tax burden. But where does that leave the community? Do some illegals better us for their presence? I certainly have a better life for having met one black-haired brown girl in particular. My brother-in-law, his wife, and their kids have been a tremendous blessing, especially in this past month, as they've worked so hard to comfort and care for my mother after we lost my dad. Being a not-overly emotional man, I've shamed myself twice by choking up while watching my new brother and sister form a circle around my mom when she needed a kind word. So, if I can be expected to act in my self-interest, I could reasonably be expected to give my in-laws such protection as I can offer.

On the day when my wife and I drove into Boston to have our 'Immigration interview' (when a federal employee chats with a couple to assess whether or not they're legitimately involved with each other), my wife and I were both very, very nervous. I will never forget my wife's face, after the interview (which was fun, actually) when the interviewer congratulated us on our marriage and said (ironically) "Welcome to the United States of America" to my wife, who had been here for seven years. When I laughed out loud at this, the man told me that no, I was wrong to laugh- there was a new country waiting outside the front doors.
On the drive back home, we ducked into the HOV lane, under the eyes of a state trooper who looked to make sure that there was two of us in the car ('cus God forbid we drive alone in the sacred extra lane on the Southeast expressway). Out of the corner of my eye I watched my wife slump down slightly and duck her head as we approached the Statie and his flashing blue lights... then, with a jerk, she sat upright again and stared intently at the guy's face as we passed. Once we were past the guy, she looked at me, I looked at her, and she smiled and then burst into tears.
The ability for a person to look a police officer in the eyes isn't to be taken lightly. For an illegal here, it's a challenge. In her home country, it was an invitation to be robbed and raped. My wife has a great affection for American police officers because they very often do actually protect the public, but she also was scared of them for what they represent. The ability to stand toe-to-toe with an American official as equals was overwhelming for her. I can't imagine what it must be like to live in fear of flashing blue lights.

Massachusetts had the first mandatory health insurance requirement in the US. The MA subsidized insurance program, MassHealth, is mostly used by illegals, who are not exempt from the program. The Masshealth program was a stopgap measure used to prevent MA hospitals from going out of business by shifting free health care costs from the hospitals to the state of MA. The most recent cost estimate shows that health care for illegals ran over 35 million last year. I suppose that this made sense, as Boston has the highest concentration of hospitals in the world, and the hospital political machine is significant in the Hub. But look at us now that the costs are shared between the state and the hospitals. Imagine the costs involved when you combine what the hospitals lose from illegals who don't belong to MassHealth AND what the state pays.

The one thing that isn't addressed in the local fishwraps is the issue of finding solutions. Mostly because there aren't any solutions, and the idea of cost-containment measures is unpalatable to the proles, because at that point, there's no hiding that we're allocating money for health care for illegals.
I don't think it's begging the question to ask what our options are. We can refuse health care to illegals... well, actually, we can't. Federal law, we have have to provide lifesaving medical care. Also, medical ethics are involved, too. Can't refuse care to the needy.
Free clinics aren't as popular as they once were. Too bad, really. It would be a nice way to cut costs, but imagine the political fallout involved if one was to earmark money towards caring for people regardless of citizenry.
I've always been of the opinion that simply enforcing existing laws would be a nice deterrent to illegal immigration. The fact remains that there's no downside to being an illegal when one comes from a dangerous, nasty place, which is where most illegals come from. We can't stop illegal immigration by reducing the palatability of being an illegal, short of committing the same atrocities that the illegals left behind. We can do so by hitting the citizens who employ illegals right in their wallet, simply put. To me, that seems to be the most humane and ethical response.

...which brings me to my closing point- namely, the largely ignored 800-lb elephant in the corner; the moral and ethical dilemma we face in this issue- forming a plan that both protects the citizenry and concurrently satisfies the moral obligation to care for those in need. Ignoring or marginalizing the need to consider the ethical impact of any decisionmaking is both disingenuous and morally shameful- to deny that there is an emotional cost involved in making any decisions on this issue is tantamount to a shameful lie. Imagine the political will involved in being forced to acknowledge that we don't have the moral justification to simply tell every illegal to go home, when doing so jeopardizes the well being of the most vulnerable among them. To do so would to be both unethical and a terrible betrayal of the principles that must be held sacred by every American in order to maintain our own sense of morality. As a (mostly) Christian nation, many of us have an additional layer of moral responsibility that must be addressed, too. As a conservative, I have to believe that there is a middle road that can be taken to find the best solutions under trying circumstances, but to start down a middle path requires mass acknowledgment that a compromisory response will not make anyone happy, even if it's the right thing to do. Finding lawmakers on both sides of the issue who will agree to form the least terrible of terrible responses will require partisanship that hasn't been extant since the last world war.

As a nation, we already try to stick our heads in the sand when it comes to illegal immigration- it is imperative that in trying to pull our heads out of the sand that we not stick them up our own asses for the lack of a firm answer as to where they should reside under normal circumstances.


Rick said...

Uh, if you meant Karl it's kind of hard not to be right of Marx, he was about as far left as anyone could get.

Paul, Dammit! said...

Try living in MA. Marx would be considered a Republican.

Anonymous said...

One of the solutions to the problem of illegals would be reinstating a guest worker program, and allow them to work here legally. It would help reduce many of the problems the illegal immigrants face, while building in safeguards. One problem that is often forgotten is that every citizen benefits from the labor provided by illegal immigrants (and most are here to work in an effort to send money home to their families). Autumn is a time for fresh picked apples. Who's picking them? What about the pumpkins that will be carved on Sunday. It aint the Italian and Irish kids who are doing this. It's mostly the illegals. The problem is that everyone prefers the knee jerk reaction rather than seriously looking at the problem.

Anonymous said...

Oh, one more point. It's your blog. If you want to go "way off subject" you can.

Paul, Dammit! said...

I agree. Somehow there is always an ample supply of Russian girls to work at highway rest stop fast food places. The program works to our benefit, compared to the alternative.