Proposition 187: Don’t Mess With TexasIn November of 1994, Californians passed the most controversial piece ofstate legislation this decade. Proposition 187 was designed to stem the flow ofillegal aliens into California by withholding all non-emergency medical benefitsfrom non-naturalized citizens. Latinos turned out in record numbers to voicetheir disapproval, and for good reason too. The health care resolutions ofProposition 187 were products of poor reason and unsound economic judgment.
Theresolutions did not get the state any closer to a balanced budget, and onlyserved to worsen the health care outlook for the future of California. It isclear that Proposition 187 was a mistake, and should not be encouraged to berepeated in Texas. The most popular reason for passage, that supporters of Proposition 187used, was the theory that a cut in illegal health services would save statetaxpayers several million dollars a year. This argument only applies to statesthat have a personal income tax, often used to help fund health care for thestate, and when the illegal immigrants avoid paying this tax.Order now
Texas does nothave such a tax, so health care is funded by the taxes that everyone in thestate pays. That means that illegal aliens are paying just as much as “realAmericans” are in sales taxes, gas taxes, liquor taxes, and cigarette taxes. Forexample, illegal aliens in San Diego, California accounted for 26. 6 milliondollars in health care costs in 1994 (Serb 63). Not a single person would denythat this is a lot of money, and therefore would seem to be an excellent reasonto cut funding right this minute. However, the logical person has to realizehow important those same aliens are to filling the state’s excise tax cofferseach year.
Excise taxes paid by illegals’ were accounting for up 60. 5 millionin state tax alone (63). In retrospect, it hardly seems right to say thatillegal immigrants are not paying their fair tax share for their health needs. It also isn’t fair that “U. S. businesses need Mexican workers for low-payingjobs, but don’t want them to have access to heath care while they are here”(Hudson 37).
Another economically based reason, that proponents of 187-likelegislation have made, is that Texans will save money by denying non-emergencycare to illegal aliens. Without close scrutiny, this seems to be a claim to makethe pocket book happy. After all, we would still allow the aliens’ the rightto life saving treatments, but we would also save a bundle by cutting the littlevisits to the doctor for fevers, colds, and sprained ankles. What Texans have toask, though, is how do we save money when we deny a forty-five dollar visit tothe doctor for strep throat, but allow a twenty thousand dollar visit tointensive care when that alien’ develops scarlet fever from the strep infection(Cowley 53). It would have been much more cost-effective to have provided directcare services up front, and California quickly found this to be true.
Prematurebabies cost San Diego more than $500, 000 dollars. Complications frompregnancies added an additional $112,000 to the bill (Serb 63). According to theclaims made, these types of costs should have disappeared after #187 was passed. The illegal immigrants were supposed to return to Mexico for their pre-natalcare, but the evidence proves they didn’t. Instead, the illegal mothers receivedno pre-natal care, and had emergencies that cost the state even more money.
There are more problems with Proposition 187-like proposals than justeconomic problems. Texans must be aware of the moral and ethical problems wewould create if we supported a similar plan for Texas. For instance, CatholicBishop John Ricard points out that if Texans explicitly set out to identify allillegal aliens, and stop them from receiving care, we are likely to have adiscriminatory situation. Every American with tan skin and a name ending in “z”is likely to be perceived as potential illegal immigrants (“Health” 248). TheNational Christian Coalition also points out that “to measure national healthcare decisions more by economic than moral or compassionate standards isappalling” (248).
But even more appalling is what we are asking our nation’sdoctors to do. By requiring that physicians report every immigrant withoutdocumentation, and to refuse them treatment when ill, we are boldly demandingthat they violate their sacred Hippocratic oath. Care providers have based theirprofessions on helping any person in need since the time of the ancient Greeks. In true spirit doctors should know no boundaries between two lands. In fact, whyshould they refuse to give treatment because a person happens to be on this sideof the Rio Grande when they fall ill? After all, “bacteria and virusesdistribute themselves without regard for national borders” (Gaffney 228), and”diseases like tuberculosis do not check for immigration status” (Health 248).
Some citizens might believe that diseases like tuberculosis were a thing of thepast, but a Californian study found that seventy percent of all immigrantsarrive carrying the germs that cause tuberculosis (Cowley 53). Remember thatthese are immigrants that were able to save up enough money at home to make thevoyage to America, and not be broke’ when they got here. The percentage ofillegal aliens carrying diseases is probably a lot higher than 70%. They don’tget sick because they have built-in immunities for the diseases found in theirhomelands, but we do not have many of the same immunities that illegals’ have.
The result is that the diseases go undetected until an emergency arises and the alien’ can be seen by a doctor. By not allowing illegal aliens to receive non-emergency care, we are putting our little Texans at risk. As we prepare for the possibility that similar proposals might beadvocated in Texas, let us all remember the ideals of humanity that we like tosay that we all share. Every American likes to think that they have a kind andcaring attitude toward the less fortunate, but a short case study published inNewsweek shows exactly how kind and caring legislation like Prop. 187 would be. In the case study, the family of Julio Cano, a twelve-year-old, anguish overwhether or not to take their son to a doctor in California.
Julio had developeda deep cough accompanied by severe shooting pains down his back. The familydecided not to risk a doctor visit because Proposition 187 had just ordered thatany illegal’ seeking care be reported. Instead the family waited until thecondition worsened enough to be able to call the paramedics, but by then it wastoo late. Little Julio died from leukemia on the way to the hospital. We must keep our pocket books out of the decision to reform health care,and instead keep the true story of Julio Cano in our hearts. Why should we turnour backs on aliens residing in this country just because a few citizens, mostwith little real knowledge of the true situation, think that this is the way toend illegal immigration.
Illegal aliens are hired by many, many people to mowthe lawn, watch the kids, clean the house, or to cook for the family. A lot oftimes, you neighbors do not claim these workers as employees in order to skipout on taxes themselves, and thus avoid paying their fair share. With thebenefit of hindsight, Californians are now able to see just how poor theirreasoning was when they passed Proposition 187. There is no doubt that Texanswill meet that call to find other ways besides cutting health care to stem thetide of illegal immigrants. Maybe health care costs of aliens can become a partof the federal budget. Also, the federal government could try and improverelations with Mexico and persistently show the economic burden that their lackof border control is having on states such as Texas.
Whatever is done though,Texans will not jump hastily into action. Any resolution will be the product ofcareful reasoning and informed economic judgements.