More than ten thousand illegal immigrants cross the boarder from Mexico into the United States of America each day. Studies show thirty-three percent are caught and sooner or later, usually sooner, they try again (Cosman). According to this statistic, illegal immigrants form a large and disputed group, which brings about one major ethical question. Does society have a moral obligation to provide health care? Those who say “no,” often point out that they are here illegally; therefore, have no right to benefits in this country. Those who say “yes,” point out that people have a basic human right to help those who are sick or in need of medical help. In this essay, the reader will be provided facts to help one better understand illegal immigration and immigrants need for health care. Many illegal immigrants harbor contagious diseases, such as tuberculosis, malaria, polio, and quite a few others (Cosman). Under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act of 1985 (EMTALA) hospitals are obligated to treat the uninsured. The EMTALA is an unfunded federal mandate, meaning they do not provide adequate reimbursement of services. Also the government imposes stiff fines on any doctor or hospital that denies treatment to anyone. In other words, the EMTALA allows illegal immigrants free medical services if they first claim an emergency need of care (Cosman). For many illegal immigrants, the fear of deportation outweighs the pain of illness or injury, so they live with their afflictions rather than seeking help until their health problems become critical. That makes matters worse — for them, for hospitals that eventually treat them, and for taxpayers who ultimately foot the bill. The federal government has control over immigration law for the United States. The money that state and local governments must provide to anchor babies- babies born in the United States by illegal immigrants- amounts to a virtual tax on United States citizens to subsidize illegal aliens. The bottom line is that working, taxpaying, legal citizens are bearing the brunt of the failure of our government officials to document citizenship before providing medical services. In 1996, Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, making all immigrants ineligible for Medicaid (Dwyer). Congress did not mention or allow was the federal government refunding the states for care performed on illegal immigrants. Unfortunately due to this oversight, there are over eighty hospitals in California alone that were forced to cease services due to bankruptcy. The law creates the notion of “unlawfully present” peoples (illegal immigrants), then applies bans to those who have been caught and deported. Illegal Immigrants caught face a three year ban, a five year ban or are banned permanently from the United States of America. In contrast, don’t doctors have a professional ethics code, to protect the public health, care for persons in medical need, and respect patient confidentiality. Restrictive measures have a negative effect on public health; by denying services to illegal immigrants, Americans could increase chances of spreading diseases. Dengue fever, for example, is rare in the United States. However, recently there was a violent outbreak in Webb County, Texas, which borders Mexico. Although it is usually a non-fatal disease, dengue fever can lead to death if it is left unhampered. This disease is very common in Ecuador, Peru, Vietnam, Thailand, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Mexico (Cosman). Polio and Malaria, which were cured in this country early in the twentieth century, are reappearing in illegal immigrants. Malaria affects about four thousand children under the age of five annually. These children suffer from fever, red eyes, and acute inflammation of their coronary arteries and other blood vessels. Many of these children suffer heart attacks and sudden death (Cosman). The leading group protecting illegal immigrants is the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), which is recognized as a national leader and trusted partner in the movement to advance social and economic justice for low-income immigrants in the United States of America. The NILC enable state and local immigrant rights groups to have a voice in shaping national policy affecting immigrants. They also build powerful coalitions and organize campaigns around immigrant rights issues. And finally, they provide information on important policy developments and other support to groups serving immigrants. Illegal immigrants’ are part of American society, throughout history; societies have used the most powerless people to do the most difficult work. Many of the most exploited workers of the industrial revolution were women, children and, men without property and many of them weren’t citizens (Dwyer). Take the Irish for example. During the infamous “Irish Potato Famine,” the sheer numbers of Irish pouring into the U.S. meant that Catholicism was on the verge of becoming the single largest Christian denomination in America. Many American Protestants held the simplistic view that if the numbers of Roman Catholics were increasing then the power and influence of the Papacy in America was also increasing, threatening America's political independence. Fear of the Papacy thus became fear of the Irish and resulted in outright violence. What the Protestants did not realize is that the Irish took the jobs that were not fashionable in 1847. The Irish worked in factories, built railroads in the West, and worked in the mines of Pennsylvania, Virginia and Montana. They were carpenter's assistants, boat-builders, dock-hands, bartenders and waiters (The History Place). Immigrants may seek religious refuge or the chance to earn money, in essence the American Dream, the opportunity to better one’s life or value of their life. Good health care can express and contribute to equal opportunity and accomplish other important opportunities. Practical measures may raise labor costs and increase the price of goods and services. The cost of ensuring their medical well-being, however, should be brought to the forefront since America relies on the work of illegal immigrants to keep prices down on fruits from strawberries to oranges. America will not be able to maintain these low prices if we can’t keep illegal immigrants healthy enough to work those jobs.
Hopefully, this paper brought to light some concern regarding illegal immigrants and our health care system. America should get involved with situations like this and allow Democracy to work. “A nation is much more than a place on a map. It is a state of mind, a shared vision, and a recognition that we are all in this together (Richard Lamm, former Governor of Colorado).” I put this quote in by former Governor Richard Lamm to help get across the point that America is much more than a place on a map, a society needs people who are willing to do the work most of us do not want. America needs immigrants; it is what this great nation was built upon.
“Anchor Babies: Part of the Immigration-Related American Lexicon.” Federation for American Immigration Reform. Updated April 2008. Web. 27 June 2010. Cosman, Madeline Pelner. “Illegal Immigrants Threaten U.S. Health Care.” Greenhaven Press, 2006. Gale Cengage Learning. Web. 19 October 2010. Dwyer, James. “Illegal Immigrants Have the Right to Receive U.S. Health Care.” Greenhaven Press, 2006. Gale Cengage Learning. Web. 19 October 2010. Lamm, Richard. “It is a Blessing for an Individual to be Bilingual; It is a Curse for a Society to be Bilingual”. Newsmax. 8 July 2005. Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform. Web. 27 June 2010.
“Irish Potato Famine.” The History Place: The Past Into The Future. Updated 2010. Web. 28 October 2010.