Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Out of the Shadows, Into the Light

Immigration reform is not just a border security issue, there are so many more dimensions to it. To be pro-reform does not mean that you are promoting prejuidice, or xenophobic. Promoting immigration reform, and an attempt to stem the tide of illegal immigration will help America remain the strongest nation on Earth.

The impact of illegal immigration is being felt strongly in our already overburdened health care system. Emergency rooms-far from the border states-are dealing with an influx of Spanish speaking patients who are unable to tell staff what exactly is wrong with them. This is occurring in areas that do not traditionally have a Hispanic presence, places like Fargo, ND or Helena, MT. There are not even Spanish translators to allow patients to receive adequate care. I am sure that over time, if this is not addressed, there will be many patients dying or treated improperly due to a language barrier.

Another thing to consider is the fact that many of these illegal immigrants are escaping extreme poverty in a Third World nation. They have not had access to reliable medical care during their lives before immigrating to America. Most have not been immunized against common childhood diseases, such as whooping cough. The rates of whooping cough alone in the border region is staggering, reaching near epidemic proportions. What is most disheartening is the fact that these diseases were eradicated due to infant immuniztions in the United States. We may see a resurgence of these childhood killers at rates that recall the post-war era. In addition to not being immunized, basic hygiene is impossible to practice in the Third World. Many of the patients being treated for serious health problems in the ER’s of America could have prevented these issues by washing hands, washing food prior to eating, cooking food properly, etc. Since many illegal immigrants have not had access to reliable medical care, serious health problems may have gone untreated all their lives.

Since illegal immigrants live in the shadows, most if not all do not have health insurance. In most cases, the hospitals treating them absorb the cost for their care. As a result of absorbing the cost of uninsured patients, hospitals raise rates for other patients and have to change their contracted rates for those blessed with health insurance (which in turn harms the overall economy). Many of these immigrants-due to years without adequate primary care-have conditions that are extremely expensive to diagnose and treat. Chronic malnutrition also has done its damage which leads us down another path for these patients.

I am not suggesting that we do not provide medical care for these patients. I think it would be in the best interest of our government to start assisting the medical community to provide for the illegal immigrants infiltrating and overwhelming the system. They are already here and they require care. The government needs to provide translation services for hospitals and community clinics to ensure that patients are correctly diagnosed and treated. We need to provide clinics and doctors in Central America (where the majority of illegal immigrants originate from) with immunizations and vitamins to prevent many of the problems that can be resolved before they spiral out of control. Basic hygiene needs to be taught-as well as providing these people the means necessary to promote and practice it.

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