Saturday, October 11, 2008

Pity the Poor Immigrant?

I've sent much of what I've cited below to the L.A. Times' blog following a two-part series on illegal Mexican immigrants who were burned, some fatally, in the Harris Ranch fire in San Diego County. I may anger everybody reading this, but I try to view this endlessly divisive topic from all sides, even as my own inevitable bias emerges. This issue ignited a virtual blaze, as the two dozen posts ahead of mine railed against nativists, politicians, lawmakers, the media, and each other. This contentious debate has long been gingerly consigned by Obama & McCain to the sidelines; I imagine they're grateful for Wall Street's wild ride. Yet, it's tied to the economy, to our philosophical tenets, the planet, capitalism, our good nature, and our own sustainability. As taxpayers, consumers, residents, workers, and perhaps employers-- if one step removed-- we all share in a discussion with no easy answers.

My contribution concerns the "logic" expressed by one of the burn victims for his treatment. Is this government generosity under medical obligation like insurance? Few criticize the fairness of having to pay premiums that fill coffers from which we may or may not gain our fair share from days or years later. Or, is this footing the bill like dividing the check equally for a meal? If so, how can those who could afford less square their frugal portions against those who gorged on the martinis and the mudpies?

I suppose yesterday's entry on Adam Gopnik's review of John Stuart Mill might tie in as well. What's the responsibility of a conservative to support a corrupt capitalism where rich people-- such as many GOP voters who flock to exurbanized estates devastated by these conflagrations-- thrive while their carwashers, groundskeepers, maids, and cooks suffer? How much should liberals shout for open borders and march smugly with banners claiming "we are all illegals" when those who abide by laws find government services that they've paid for diminished or eliminated, due locally often to the burdens of dealing with those tens of millions who break the law?

What this boils down to is how much we're responsible as Good Samaritans for caring for an injured fellow human being, and how much we must continue to spend to do so, given our dwindling resources, our medical imperative to give care to all who enter a hospital, and our eroding middle-class charged to pay for indigent patients. Maybe a billion dollars matters little next to our three-hundred-trillion dollar debt. Yet, this hits us locally; our cities and counties must pay for this, not the Feds. And, perhaps I wonder bitterly, what matter anyway-- we must fund UC San Diego's hospital nevertheless, along with Stryker tanks, bailouts, and bridges to nowhere. A price exacted from us all for what makes a modern society humane, and also horrific.

I've heard the rejoinders. Better to care for the poor with medicine rather than let disease run rampant. Teaching their children trumps despair. I've spent my life among inner city and urban students, most of whom come from other countries, or at least their parents. I ride the train and take the bus. I live in a place full of Spanish and Chinese ads, faces from across frontiers. I accept my contradictions. Yet, given that no New Jerusalem awaits, no massive restructuring of our wealth to ease the impoverished and to afflict the complacent, how much can a overwhelmed state-- with 38 million and never decreasing-- keep ladling out? Lions won't lie down with lambs no matter who's elected. Washington ensures the bombers being built, but Sacramento and San Diego and L.A. must pay the doctors and teachers.

Many religious groups castigate any who dare to challenge our mandate to favor the poor. Many good-hearted citizens, and many immigrants too, also may ask how long we can keep bearing this massive commitment in times when we face job cutbacks, higher taxes, and inflated deductibles. Is this the price we pay for being different from so many other nations? If so, do we have bottomless purses? The compassionate side of me knows that we must comfort the sick and heal the wounded. The calculating side of me wonders how long we can continue to do so as our jobs and finances dwindle.

Nicolas Beltran "also recognizes that many Americans are angry about the cost of medical treatment for illegal immigrants, estimated at $750 million to $1 billion annually. But he figures that taxes deducted from migrants' paychecks helped pay for the nearly $1 million in healthcare he received from the UC San Diego hospital. {. . . .} Now that he's stronger, he plans to work as a handyman for $10 an hour in cash, until he and his girlfriend can save enough money to go home."

So, can you spot the contradiction? My sympathies extend to him and anyone else in such a horrific situation. Others have commented on this, and whether "karma" or Christian mercy has been or has not been shown by critics or advocates of the medical care afforded Beltran and the others rehabilated.

The tone of Marjorie Miller's article, however, tends to chide anyone who might question the expenditures continually made for such care to those who cannot pay, in a nation where those who have paid into such a system may not receive equivalent benefits. The Los Angeles Times, to me, often appears conspiring with a Pollyannish media which refuses to accept that the only way we can regain any control over housing costs, traffic, schooling, and public infrastructure is if we slash immigration, rebuild our tax and employment base here, and practice birth control.

We should be paying people not to have babies, rather than hiking an immigrant-driven fertility rate that keeps rising higher than other sensible, advanced nations. Canada & Australia take the trouble to identify educated applicants to admit; we're stuck in this foolish gesture of having to take everyone, and we're charged with racism if we protest. If 14 million Canucks sidled over here and insisted on Americans footing their medical, educational, housing, loans, and welfare bills too, I'd protest the same.

We work and watch our health coverage crumble. We pay for millions of cases of subsidized health care for people who have contributed little or nothing to its funding. Beltran justifies this largess by his past infinitesimal contribution from his tiny paycheck. Presuming his also guilty boss followed part of our hopelessly impotent laws in the first place. Now Beltran's going back in the underground economy, cash changing hands for his exploitation, and there'll be no further deductions for his or anybody else's publicly funded hospital stay.

The left loves the massive waves of legal and illegal immigration for the Democratic votes that gerrymander districts like mine into undulating portions that will vote for the donkey through infinity. The right loves the immigrants to keep undercutting our wages while stoking our nativist frustration.

Legal immigrants with training waited to come here and have the smarts to contribute to our nation. I understand that nearly all of us descend from border crossers. Ethically, we have to treat anyone injured. But, our morality makes us also a stooge for those wishing to take advantage. We do not have an endlessly expanding nation needing to double in population. But, I feel our mayor, most of our politicians and their donors, and many of my neighbors would love this to happen.

This is not a frontier anymore. It's not a century ago. There's not 50,000 people in L.A. Our county grows by 100,000 yearly.

Neither party cares about those who apply patiently, possess skills that the market demands, and who refrain from reproducing at levels that will bring us a half-billion people crowding into a land already ecologically devastated. The media cheerleads open borders, portrays anybody who questions the status quo as Know-Nothings. Yet the LAT dares to wonder why there's so many drivers on the freeway, so much suburban sprawl, so much density.

"Massive fire turned a perilous trek deadly for border crossers." October 5-6, 2008. Marjorie Miller. Los Angeles Times. Caption: Concepcion Peralta, far right, gets help from the Angeles del Desierto search and rescue group in planting three crosses near the site where his daughter, her husband and a friend died in last October's Harris Ranch fire.


sasiraman said...

I pity the poor immigrant who wishes he would have stayed home
who uses all his power to do evil but in the end is always left so alone that man whom with his fingers cheats.
new way to advertise

Anonymous said...

It really bothers me the way people twist and corrupt the meaning of the Cities of Refuge -- the six Levitical cities -- and twist Christian and Jewish teachings to support their politics. [Joshua 20 etc]

I highly highly recommend you listen to Fr Patrick Henry Reardon's "Cities of Refuge" here:

Layne said...

The one thing we agree on is that it's not a border issue. There are just too many friggin' people period, although Alberta, Canada is actually advertising for more in the NY Times. Offer any teenage girl who subscribes to a long term birth control method free vocational or college education. Get Gates or Soros or some high roller to fund it internationally. Way cheaper in the long run.

My heart skipped when I noticed you were writing about illegal immigration and I commend you for keeping it much milder than you could of.