An alternative to popular faith
President Obama assures us his health care plan would not cover undocumented aliens. While that statement is untrue, it cheered Democrats, who want to pass a health-care bill – any health care bill.
Republican Representative Dean Heller said, “Congress should do everything within its power to curb abuse. Requiring citizenship verification for enrollment would ensure only citizens and legal residents receive taxpayer funded healthcare,” which cheered Republicans, who use the law and citizenship as excuses to exercise xenophobia.
When Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, agree on a major principle, we all need to tremble. Here are some thoughts on this frightening situation:
Despite all the claims, no one knows how many undocumented aliens reside in America. Depending on whom you believe, the number could be anywhere between 12 million and 70 million – from 3% of the U.S. population to 17%.
Despite all the claims, no one knows how much income tax, Medicare tax, Social Security tax, sales tax, property tax and all other taxes they pay. Some right-wingers claim the undocumenteds pay no taxes, which is ridiculous on the face of it. No sales or property taxes? No income, Social Security or Medicare taxes withheld from their paychecks? No excise taxes, like gasoline tax? Please let me know their secret. We all might like to try it. Many undocumented aliens pay taxes out of deportation fear. Many pay out of a sense of obligation and morality. Many pay for many reasons.
Despite all the claims, no one knows the degree to which undocumented aliens may “steal” jobs from American citizens. Usually the jobs in question are at the low end. We don’t hear doctors or lawyers complaining that undocumented aliens have stolen their jobs. Who does most of the low-end jobs in America? Disproportionately, blacks (aka African Americans) and Latinos (aka Mexican Americans). Who are the complainers? Mostly the right-wing whites, who wouldn’t take those jobs under any circumstances.
Despite all the claims, no one knows the net economic contribution made by undocumented aliens. Conservatives claim it’s very little. Liberals tell us about all the industries that depend on undocumented aliens.
So, despite much heat, shouting and claims, no one knows the fundamental facts of this debate. It’s like arguing religion. Everyone believes strongly, but no one has facts.
We do know this, however. When undocumented aliens don’t have insurance, they use emergency rooms, for which we citizens pay, or they get sick and become a burden on society, for which we also pay.
We know that people who pay tax are entitled to government services. So to deprive all undocumented aliens of federal support is unconscionable and may be unconstitutional.
We know undocumented aliens are not going home. They will be here with us until they die, as will their children and their children’s children. Of course many of these children, and most of the children’s children will be born-in-the-U.S.A. citizens. Shall we deny these American children health care? Shall we deport their parents?
We know undocumented aliens are people. They have families. They love each other and they love God. They go to churches. They build; they clean; they bathe; they plant; they reap; they eat. They have hopes and fears and pride and regrets. They care. They mourn. They are very much like you and me, except fate has not given them that piece of paper we were so fortunate to have received, most of us merely by the accident of being born in the right place. They are not monsters or criminals, any more than we are.
Most right wingers are Christians. Are we naive to expect Christians to be more Christian toward their fellow human beings?
We don’t know what President Obama really believes. He’s a politician. But it is sad to see a President pander to the xenophobes who espouse hatred of a minority, under the guise of law, especially when there is so much we don’t know.
Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
For more information, see http://www.rodgermitchell.com