The US health care system fails undocumented immigrants, 12/21 – 12/26

28 Dec

For [Undocumented] Immigrant, Line is Drawn at Transplant, New York Times, 12.21.11
The story on the front page of the New York Times of Angel, an undocumented immigrant who needs a kidney transplant, embodies how the US health care system is failing undocumented immigrants.  Because of his immigration status, Angel is not eligible for the end-stage renal disease treatment that is available to everyone else, regardless of income level.  When Angel became ill in 2010, the private insurance market was not an option either.  Due to “pre-existing condition” policies, now banned under the new health care law, no private insurer would cover Angel’s transplant.  In addition, paying out of pocket would have cost $200,000, an exorbitant fee for a waiter in New York.  Finally, receiving charity treatment was not even an option because local hospitals, concerned about their bottom lines, have been unwilling to accept Angel although doctors have offered to conduct the transplant without fees.   Sadly, Angel is only eligible to participate in an organ donor program if he is on the other side – contributing his organs after death – as many undocumented immigrants in New York’s public hospitals do.
To some in the US, including Representative Dana T. Rohrabacher, Republican of California, who is cited in the article, an individual’s immigration status should be the ultimate determinant of their eligibility for publicly-funded health care.  However, health policy and the health care system should promote the common good, not act as de facto immigrant enforcers.  Punitive approaches to undocumented immigrants make for bad health and social policy.  In Angel’s case, a transplant would actually cost the state of New York less than the emergency dialysis he currently receives four times a week at a public hospital.  As a father of two, his illness puts strain on his family and limits his ability to provide economically for his children.  Finally, if Angel is eventually pushed to return to Mexico to receive his transplant, his family will be torn apart.
This sad story is a reminder of the importance of understanding the intersection of immigration and health policies and pushing for inclusive health care policies.

In other news…

In a Study, Judges Express a Bleak View of Lawyers Representing Immigrants, New York Times, 12.19.11
A recent study conducted by US Immigration judges shows that immigration lawyers provide poor representation of their clients.  The report estimates that immigrants received “inadequate” legal assistance in 33% of cases and “poor” assistance in 14% of cases.  Private lawyers received the lowest grades compared to pro bono lawyers from nonprofits and law schools.

Little known program allows foreigner investors to receive visas, New York Times, 12.19.11
This immigration program is authorization for the 1%: foreign investors who can invest $500,000 in development projects can receive a green card.  Evidence from the New York Times investigation suggests that in New York City, at least, officials are stretching the rules to qualify projects for this foreign financing.

Judge gives green light to case seeking counsel for mentally disabled immigrant detainees – The Washington Post, 12.20.11
A federal judge in Los Angeles has granted class-action status to a case filed on behalf of mentally disabled immigrant detainees in California, Washington and Arizona, who lack legal representation and are not mentally competent to represent themselves.

Conn. Mayor Seeks to Let [Undocumented] Immigrants Vote, ABC News, 12.20.11

In addition to maintaining New Haven, Connecticut, as a sanctuary city, the mayor has announced that he will pursue legislative action to allow undocumented city residents to vote.  He says that it is part of an effort to make immigrants comfortable in New Haven.  Currently, more than 70 cities and states nationwide are also sanctuary jurisdictions, baring police from asking about immigration status when someone is arrested.

Note to readers: You may notice that in this post the term “undocumented” is inserted in brackets.  We have decided to stop using the “i-word” when it is featured in a news article.  Wherever the offensive word is, we will now replace with “undocumented” or other appropriate words in brackets.


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