Category Archives: Health Care

Going bi-coastal for immigrant inclusion in health care

Yesterday, immigrant rights groups took direct action to law makers on both coasts of the country.  With the Senate reopening debate on health care reform, the current version of the bill being debated will once again throw immigrants (both documented and undocumented) under the bus.

In San Francisco,  around 250 people demonstrated outside of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. The rally was organized in reaction to the Senate’s version of the health care reform bill that excludes undocumented immigrants from purchasing insurance with their own money and reinstates the five year bar for legal immigrants’ access to care.

EunSook Lee, Executive Director of NAKASEC spoke to the crowd about their common purpose:

Unfortunately, the Senate bill released last week falls far short of the House bill with regards to immigrant inclusion. Once again, immigrants continue to become the scapegoats and, if not corrected, this will result in a poisoning of the health care debate and the blocking of the real progress Americans need. Speaker Nancy Pelosi demonstrated pivotal leadership by standing strong against pressure from both sides of the aisle and the White House to exclude people from health reform. Today we are here in San Francisco representing millions of people in this country in support of health reform and urging her to remain strong.

Meanwhile, on the East coast, around 40 activists from CASA de Maryland and NAKASEC gathered outside of the infamous Representative Joe Wilson’s office to protest the scapegoating of immigrants that Wilson ignited with his “You lie” outburst during a joint session of Congress this September.

I love that the protestors outside of Joe Wilson’s office directly ask staffers how it makes sense to deny them the right to buy insurance with their own money, while still paying taxes and contributing positively to our country. The staffers have no idea what just hit them.


ACTION: Stand up for immigration inclusion in health care!

This weekend, the Senate voted to open up debate on health care reform. Now is a critical time and with the possibility of compromises ahead, we want to make sure that immigrant inclusion is a part of any reform bill that goes to vote.

After the infamous Joe Wilson outburst last month, immigration has yet again become a flashpoint in the debate. At the moment, the Senate’s version of the bill will include a bar for any undocumented immigrant to even purchase health insurance with their own money and no federal subsidies. This is something I still can’t wrap my head around.

It [is] an insane argument on more than one level. Illegal immigrants are currently permitted to purchase a quart of milk at the corner grocery. Should that activity be banned, too? If an illegal immigrant showed up at an emergency room with a burst appendix, should that person be left to die? [via Slate]

When Congress and the administration allow the Joe Wilson’s of the world to set the tone of the debate, it will be the most vulnerable populations that are thrown under the bus.

Today, at 4pm, FIRM groups NAKASEC &KRCLA are leading a rally in front of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s office to urge her to protect immigrant inclusion in health care reform.

We will have videos and pictures to update you throughout the day.

If you’re in San Francisco, hit the streets to help support (details here). In the mean time, visit NAKASEC’s blog to sign their petition to:

1.Make the federal government pay their fair share by removing their five year waiting period for legal immigrants in Medicaid and Medicare.

2.Make health reform affordable to everyone by allowing public access to purchase the public option in the new marketplace for health insurance.

3.Let everyone who subsidizes the health system to participate in it, and make informed health decisions, regardless of immigration status.

Sign the petition here.

ACTION: Say NO to scapegoating immigrants to block health care reform

health care

Folks, we are in the home stretch of the long and brutal fight for health care reform. After months of vicious debate, this weekend the House of Representatives will be finally voting on the bill.  The truth is, we are still short the votes we need to finally pass this vital piece of legislation.

And, right on cue, the GOP is planning to use immigration as a wedge in order to derail this historic and important vote. The party of  “NO” is yet again using their favorite scapegoat, undocumented immigrants, to try and deny the American public the accessible health care it deserves.

We cannot stand by and let this happen. Pick up your phone NOW and call the Capitol Switchboard at 1-866-587-3023. Ask to be connected to your Representative. When you are connected tell them two things:

  1. Vote YES on the health care reform bill.
  2. Don’t allow the obstruction of health care by using undocumented immigrants as scapegoats.

I cannot stress how important it is that this bill NOT be blocked by Republicans using fear and xenophobia to push their own political agenda.

Tell your Senator to stop the scapegoating and pass real health care reform NOW.

Senate Finance Committee considers more immigration amendments to health care bill

SFC hearing

Click above to watch the hearing LIVE.

Today, the Senate Finance Committee will be considering more immigration related amendments to the current health care reform bill. Yesterday, at least two anti-immigrant amendments, one from Sen. Kyl and another from Sen. Grassley, were defeated by votes of 10 – 13.

For a great write-up of who is sponsoring these amendments and what each entails, check out Andrea Nill’s post over at the Wonk Room. Here’s her quick take on the happenings yesterday:

The Senate Finance Committee had good reason to vote down Kyl C15 and keep the DHS, IRS, and SSA operating independently of one another. Tax collection and immigration enforcement efforts are conducted separately “in order to make sure that everyone who earns income within our borders pays the proper amount of taxes,” regardless of their immigration status. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) called Grassley C8 “a solution looking for a problem” before it was defeated this afternoon. The same could be said for most of the amendments proposed to further limit the few benefits that legal immigrants in the US might be able to receive.

We have to keep pressure on these legislators to let them know that we are watching and we won’t let them throw immigrants under the bus during health care reform. Click here to call members of the committee and ask them to ensure that immigrants have adequate access to health care.

Healthcare and Immigration Reform: Lies, Damned Lies, and

This week’s guest post from Robert Gittelson touches on the misinformation perpetuated by the likes of Joe Wilson and his band of anti’s, who are trying to use undocumented immigrants as scapegoat bargaining chips in their efforts to thwart health care reform. Robert lays out a strong argument for why we must use the facts when pushing back on these lies, but I also want to note that we must  lift up the hate and fear these types of lies stem from. Obama chose to use the phrase “illegal immigrant” this week, a phrase that dehumanizes the human faces of this issue. If we allow this type of speech and framing in the first place, we take the humanity out of what should be a human rights issue.

We must remember, first and foremost that:

If health care is a human right, then it inheres in one’s humanity, not in citizenship or legal status.

And thanks to Robert for letting me say my piece before posting his great work this week.

“Lies, damned lies, and statistics” is part of a phrase attributed to the 19th
Century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. It would appear that in it’s most recent reincarnation,the phrase is particularly applicable to the political strategy of our Republican party, especially in their stated campaigns of making Healthcare President Obama’s Waterloo, and of course in their determination to obstruct any type of comprehensive immigration reform bill.

I’ve stated in past articles that when the facts are on your side, argue the facts. The “anti’s” have one upped me. They have developed a better mouse trap. They have adopted a policy in which, when the facts are not on their side, they simply make up new facts. Clearly, they have determined that this strategy is a good one, because to date it has been working.
According to a recent NBC poll, (it)

“its regrettable how effective Republicans have been in shaping opinion on specific health care reform issues through misinformation and the use of fear tactics. When Americans are polled on the question that the proposed Heathcare Reform: Will give health insurance coverage to illegal immigrants? 55% responded  that it is likely to happen.”

The Republican leadership continues to stay this course. For example,
Senate Minority Whip John Kyl recently was called out on this by Roll Call,
when he stated to them,

“It’s a logical question for people to ask,” Kyl said during a conference call with reporters. “That illegal immigrants get care … it’s a big burden on hospitals,” Kyl said.

Now, the truth is that the only actual version of a bill that has been
proposed is House Bill 3200, which clearly states in several places, including page 132, section 242, that “people in the United Statesillegally are not eligible”.

 But why let pesky things like the actual facts get in the way of a perfectly good obstruction. Here is another fact: A law passed in 2005 requires applicants to Medicaid, which insures poor people, to prove their citizenship. Two years later, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform studied Medicaid enrollments in six states (including Kansas, Colorado, Minnesota, Washingtonand Wisconsin). It found only eight undocumented immigrants on the rolls.
And yet, our friends at F.A.I.R., who will soon stake out the capitol
in their “Hold Their Feet To The Fire” convention, (more accurately labeled “Let’s Add Fuel To The Fire”), just keep piling on with their own version of the facts: America’s health care system is in crisis: A key issue is the cost of the expansion, and that cost will be greatly influenced by the amount of coverage that becomes available to immigrants, including illegal aliens and their children—a sizable portion of the uninsured. Although a national total of annual unreimbursed medical expenses for undocumented immigrants is not available, it is likely that those costs are more than $10.5 billion.

I guess those eight undocumented immigrants must have really
socked it to the system.

Look, if fringe and emotionally charged “anti’s” such as Joe
Wilson have become the face of the Republican Party, that’s their problem. Let us not in any way confuse these out of control fear-mongers with mainstream Americans. Let’s keep our eye on the ball. The antis continue to control the news cycle – not with the quality of their ideas and character – but throughtheir unpatriotic antics and unprecedented distain for our duly electedPresident. Maybe the antis truly believe that he is an “illegal”, as these “birthers” would have us believe. Maybe they just don’t like him because he’sblack, (a more logical assumption, given their distain for people that don’t look exactly like they do).

I can only hope that their regrettable behavior will eventually cause a rebound effect. I believe that when the majority of Americans, (who after all did vote for Obama and change), start to look at the facts, and not the fiction, they will come around and push for fair and just reforms to our healthcare and immigration systems. Therefore, it is time for advocates of these causes to speak out, and set the records straight.

The antis are gaining in the polls because they are the only ones making any noise, andthe media abhors a vacuum. If the facts are on our side, we must argue the facts. Okay, so let’s start arguing!

Anti-Immigrant Hate, Obama and Joe Wilson

If you are like me, and millions of others, you tuned in last night to hear President Obama’s health care speech to a joint session of Congress. And while the President gave us plenty to ponder, analyze and, I’ll admit it, still question about the current state of Health Care Reform, there is one moment that has overshadowed the night.

While pushing back on some of the myths perpetuated by much of the GOP and the rabid town-hall-goers, including the non-existence of the infamous “death panels”, President Obama was rudely interrupted by Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC), who shouted (at the top of his lungs) “You lie!“.

First and foremost, the fact that ANY member of Congress somehow thought it was acceptable for this type of outburst, directed at the President in front of a joint session of Congress, means he is lacking the type of judgment and temperament required of an elected official. That much is obvious.

But can we take a second to examine exactly what pushed Wilson to boiling point, allowing him to explode in such a violent and shameful manner? Of course, everyone’s favorite scapegoat – the undocumented immigrant. Check out the video below for Obama’s exact words and Wilson’s shouted rebuttal:

I have to say, I am highly disappointed in Obama, who ran on promises of just and humane immigration reform. He was only too willing to throw undocumented immigrants under the bus last night, not to mention his use of the term “illegal immigrants”. (If you want to debate why this term is a misnomer, please click here and read first).

Its incredible (though not surprising) that the topic of undocumented immigrants is what pushed a GOP member so far that they actually SHOUTED at the President.

From Mario Solis-Marich at NuestraVoice:

It joins the specter of an action by an African American President to the hatred of immigrants that you and others have used as political currency. I have to admit that this combination makes for political dynamite and of course since you have no real ideas for health reform divisive lies may be the only tools at your disposal. Therefore considering your weak and ethically compromised position I can understand the visceral impulse to scream out like a wounded animal. But Mr. Wilson that does not change the fact that the statement that the undocumented can benefit from health reform is a lie, you know it is a lie, therefore you are a liar.

Its like the misinformation and scare-tactics of the red-faced, screaming masses at Town Halls has infected even the most prized spaces for civil discourse. A joint session of Congress? This can’t be what our country has come to.

Not to mention, we are talking about human beings here – many of whom are caught up in a failing system. I wonder how Rep. Wilson would feel if he had to talk face-to-face with the people featured in CHIRLA’s most recent video on health care:

Thankfully, it looks as though Wilson’s lowest moment has become a rallying cry for those who want to pass real health care reform, and has even further delegitimized anti-immigrant politicians. Its a moment when the anti’s are showing their true colors – and they did it in front of the whole country.

As Liza Sabater at CultureKitchen said:

We need more Rep. Joe Wilson’s to speak out against human rights like health care and fair immigration policies. So we can show the world and voters why we need to get rid of them to save democracy.

FIRM Spotlight: CHIRLA – Stories Reflecting a Broken Health Care System

With the health care debate raging about whether or not “illegals” are going to be included, I kept thinking “But they’re talking about human beings”.  Why is it so difficult for people to see that we are talking about people’s lives here?

Perhaps if more people could see this video from our partners at CHIRLA:

Communities of color convey their frustration with the current health care system and hope that with their testimonies an inclusive affordable and comprehensive health care reform is approved by congress and the president.

It humanizes the healthcare debate in a way that I think should be infused into the current dialogue.

Senator Kyl’s lies: Why demagogues need not apply

Here is today’s powerful – and timely- guest post from Robert Gittelson:

When a private citizen “demagogues,” on a political issue, they are presumably protected through their first amendment rights. In other words, they could misleadingly claim that the healthcare bill being promoted by the Obama Administration would cover undocumented immigrants. They would be wrong, of course, but they would be within their rights to make these erroneous allegations.

In point of fact, this has been exactly what opponents of healthcare reform have been doing – and with remarkable success – as recent polling has concluded that 55% of Americans have been falsely led to believe that this is so, precisely because they believe the false claims of anti-immigrant and anti-immigration reform “Restrictionist-Obstructionists.”

However, as wrong and as evil as this practice of fear mongering by private citizens has been on this issue, there is a much more sinister and insidious case of demagoguery being propagated from within the body politic. Specifically, I am referring to the intentional statements of Senator John Kyl, who, while fulfilling his elected duties, and in the course of conducting the business of the United States Senate, has intentionally and maliciously lied to the public about this issue, with the express intent of deceiving the public about the proposed healthcare reform legislation.

It continues to be the stated goal of the Republican Party to make this healthcare bill “Obama’s Waterloo.” By conflating the issues of immigration reform and healthcare reform, both of which Kyl is dead set on obstructing, he must have sensed that he had an opportunity to damage both issues with a single “tall tale.”

According to an article in yesterday’s Roll Call,

“Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday defended critics of Democratic health care reform plans who claim the proposals would provide subsidized health care to illegal immigrants….It’s a logical question for people to ask,” Kyl said during a conference call with reporters. “That illegal immigrants get care … it’s a big burden on hospitals,” Kyl said.

Now, even Republicans are moving to swiftly distance themselves from Kyl’s statements. The same article stated,

“In Iowa, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) faced immigration questions at all four of his town-hall events. None of those events saw heated exchanges over the issue — and Grassley said there are no bills being considered that would extend benefits to illegal immigrants.”

Even if Kyl were just another run of the mill Senator, the politically motivated action of lying to sway voters to oppose a bill on false pretenses would be an ethical offense. However, since Kyl is a member of the political leadership in his party, (he is the Republican Whip), this is a much more serious offence. Unfortunately, the fact that Kyl sits on the Immigration, Refugees and Border Security Subcommittee of the Judiciary, casts a whole new and sinister light on the severity of his transgression.

He is charged with a sworn duty to legislate immigration issues. How can he possibly uphold the honor and integrity of that august body, in light of his shameful lie about undocumented immigrants being included in the healthcare reform legislation?

According to the Senate’s own rules governing the Enforcement Of Ethical Standards In Congress,

“The direction to discipline or “punish” its own Members, and the authority to expel, relate directly to and inform the right “recognized by common parliamentary law” of self-preservation of the institutional integrity of the legislature and its proceedings.

To my way of thinking, Kyl is deserving of discipline, as clearly the act of outright lying for political gain is, and should be, an ethical breach of his duties as a Senator. His offense may or may not rise to the level of expulsion from the Senate. However, since that would take a 2/3 majority of the Senate to vote for expulsion, it would probably not happen.

Indeed, the voters of Arizona may, should, and probably will have their own ideas about whether or not they support a Senator that intentionally lies about immigration issues to deceive the public about the content of an important piece of legislation.

Fortunately, our founding fathers, in their infinite wisdom, have allowed for other forms of punishment to those Senators that fall short of the ethical standards we would expect from our elected officials. Indeed, Kyl could be reprimanded, censured, or disciplined in other ways. Certainly, at a minimum, he must be stripped of his membership in the Immigration Subcommittee. He has clearly rendered himself to be unfit to sit on that particular committee, as his impartiality and fidelity to the legal issues surrounding our immigration laws has been irreparably compromised. He is the architect of his own demise.

This really begs the question; Just how big does a lie have to be for a Senator to be disciplined? I mean, for example, how many people does the lie have to hurt? In this case, his lie was made with the intention to defeat the President’s healthcare bill. That would and could cause at least 40,000,000 people to continue to be uninsured, and we can deduce that the net effect of that will be deaths for American residents or citizens. Of that we can be certain. And what of the damage that his lie does to the hopes and aspirations of the 12,000,000 undocumented residents? They will be tainted negatively through Kyl’s lie, and thus may be needlessly withheld the comprehensive immigration reform that they are so desperately waiting and hoping for. Perhaps it is a matter of degree? Does a lie have to be 50% false to warrent discipline? 75%? 100%? Just how disingenuous does the lie have to be to have negative repercussions, or does it even matter? Can a Senator just go ahead and lie for political gain, with no repercussions at all?

We are facing a serious healthcare crisis in this nation, and our President is trying to orchestrate legislation aimed at fixing a broken system. Similarly, we are facing a severe crisis in our broken immigration system, and the President has promised to address legislation aimed at repairing that crisis next. In point of fact, these two issues are inexorably interconnected, and are as complicated as they are polarizing. Therefore, we owe it to our nation, to insure that the legislators that are charged with crafting these difficult solutions are above reproach, as well as above the fray of party politics. These are massive undertakings requiring men and women of great integrity – and with great and open minds. Proven “demagogues” need not apply.

Town Halls, Death Panels and Anti-Immigrant Extremism: Why the recent rash of hate scares me.

I am blogging this morning from my hotel room in Pittsburgh, where I’m eagerly awaiting the New Organizing Institute Summit, before the start of Netroots Nation on Thursday. I’ve had the TV on in the background, listening to the morning news shows – something I never have the luxury to do at home. And, I have to be honest, the coverage of all of the healthcare town halls and the angry mobs descending upon them is frightening. Not just because of the overwhelming amount of misinformation being circulated (and bought into), but the sheer amount of blind hate people are spewing at anything and everything they view as “other” than them.

With this context in mind, I’m going to post a video that was captured at a recent New Hampshire town hall. For those of us in the immigration fight, this type of vitriol is nothing new – but in light of the frenzied screaming matches occurring all over the country, I feel like hate speech like this is being more and more legitimized. I mean, at one point in this video, you can here these lines:

“Send [illegal immigrants] home with a bullet in the head the second time”

“Read what Jefferson said about the Tree of Liberty – it’s coming baby.”

[Jefferson said “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”]

If that doesn’t scare the hell out of you, I’m not sure what will. The bottom line is, we must find a way to counter this hate.

h/t to Jackie at America’s Voice and Kyle at Citizen Orange for this.

Don’t Enshrine Discrimination in Health Care Reform

health care

From Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director of the Center for Community Change. Originally posted at the Huffington Post.

Finally, the country seems serious about reforming health care. But with discussions about a public option, cost control and competition raging, one aspect of achieving true universal coverage is being left out: what to do about immigrants who lack coverage?

All of the plans getting serious consideration in Congress would exclude undocumented immigrants. Many proposals would even bar access to community health centers and emergency rooms — a historic shift from America’s humanitarian tradition that in an emergency no one should be turned away. Some proposals would exclude legal resident immigrants who have been in the United States for less than five years. Unless the debate takes a different turn, millions of immigrants will be left out of the system.

We should not enshrine discriminatory principles into a new health care system. A “universal” health care program that leaves out millions of Americans is a fraud. Just as we stand up for other core principles in the health care debate — quality, affordability, a strong public plan — we need to stand up for immigrant coverage as an essential component of just and effective health care reform.

Without immigrant inclusion, people like Ockwhan Her, a 48 year-old Korean-American mother of two from Los Angeles, will continue being relegated to second class status. Ockwhan, uninsured, couldn’t afford to visit the doctor when the pains in her stomach became too great to ignore. It wasn’t until a personal emergency forced her to return to Korea that she was able to afford seeing a doctor, and learn that the pain in her stomach was cancer. Even though a legal permanent resident in the United States, our laws bar her from receiving health care benefits that could save her life.

It’s worth reminding ourselves of why it’s so important for immigrants to be included in our national health care system. Here are some common sense reasons:

  • Contrary to right-wing myth, almost all immigrants pay taxes. Excluding immigrants from a tax-funded health care system is simply unfair.
  • If immigrants are excluded from coverage, they will continue to go to emergency rooms for medical services, services that we ultimately pay for through public programs or higher insurance premiums. Rather than subsidize inadequate, short-term care, let’s provide real preventative care that will actually keep families healthy.
  • Health is, by nature, a public good. We all benefit when every family in our community is

healthy. Leaving out millions of Americans hurts all of us, not just those who are excluded.
There is no reasonable basis for excluding immigrants from access to health care. It’s all about bigotry and fear, including the fears of our political leadership. Even many progressive members of Congress are reluctant to take a stand because they don’t want to get in the way of health care “reform.”

But until we include everyone, universal coverage will continue to be a myth, and tax payers like Ockwhan will continue to suffer needlessly.