Our VoiceImmigrationNews & Politics

White Heat for White Health

Rev. David L. Ostendorf • Aug 26, 2009

This week the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) announced its tired ol’ annual “Hold Their Feet to the Fire” lobby days in mid-September, replete with its usual cast of right wing radio ringers spewing vitriol about immigrants.

This year, of course, the Great White Fear is that “illegal aliens” (and people of color) will get access to “tax-payer funded” benefits under an Obama health plan. Dan Stein and company must have breathed a collective sigh of relief that the health care debate hung on through the August recess, which gifted the FAIR Fire Holders something to rant about when they trot back across the Beltway in a few weeks.

Except for the emergency room when absolutely necessary, health care for low-wage workers in the U.S.—immigrants and others—is simply unattainable.

More to the point, cases of injured or sick workers being terminated are legion as few low-wage workers can afford to take time off from their jobs to see a health care provider and/or risk treatment for an on-the-job injury that ultimately could lead to being fired or to being laid off without pay. Even a trip to the emergency room is risky given the countless settings where translators are available only by phone. That these workers would suddenly take undue advantage of a reformed health care system that might actually include them is a fear ludicrously rooted prejudice, to say the least.

The Federation of American Immigration Reform, predictably of course, conveniently ignores the fact that immigrant workers are themselves taxpayers who shell billions into public coffers.

For white nationalists, the only good tax dollar is a white tax dollar, which is to say that the only deserving recipient of “tax-payer” benefits is a white recipient. And this is exactly what the raucous town hall meetings have been about: the notion that white benefits and white costs will contribute to a reformed health system that might actually provide just health care for all, a notion that’s stoked red hot by a growing realization that the nation’s shifting demographics are actually impacting its political landscape.

If the Congress and the Administration withers under the white heat of the health reform debate, immigration and other reform initiatives are fully in jeopardy. FAIR realizes this, as do the white nationalists who have taken full advantage of the health reform debacle by purposefully escalating it to the level of a national political fray.

For the moment, immigration reform is about health reform. Let’s realize this, and finally begin holding FAIR’s feet of clay to the fire of true political change.

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