September 2009 Archives

September 11, 2009

You lie! -- No apologies from Congressman

Representative Joe Wilson's outburst on the floor of the House of Representatives, effectively calling the President a liar has continued to resonate throughout the country. As advocates for immigrants, Los Angeles immigration lawyers at Fong & Aquino have warned that immigrants will be used as scapegoats during the health care debate. And so they have.

The fact that Congressman Wilson was told by Republican party leaders to immediately call the White House to apologize should be a signal; Wilson did not choose to apologize himself. He has maintained that he is right, despite the facts. Instead, we are worried that he will become a symbol to radical right-wing activists that it is perfectly alright to shout down the President, perfectly acceptable to simply interrupt anyone with whom one disagrees, perfectly acceptable to ignore facts. This type of approach leads to a my-way-or-the-highway approach to politics, and no one gains from that.

We believe that as the debate on Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) begins in 2010, this form of argument, simply cutting off or shutting down civilized discussion, will become worse. This is a danger to our democracy and will harm immigrants and our country.

We have already written about how these tactics cheapen our legislative process. We urge all immigrants, friends of immigrants, and advocates for immigrants to be alert in the coming months. Stand up for our friends! Encourage oure elected officials, our neighbors, and our friends to Welcome the Stranger. Be sure to write to your elected officials, urging them to support CIR and giving them the support needed to stand up for immigrants. --jcf

September 10, 2009

"You lie!" - GOP Congressman Heckles Obama about Immigrants

It is sometimes saddening and discouraging to be right. Yesterday, immigration attorneys at Fong & Aquino in Los Angeles cautioned in our blog that immigrants would be used to score points in the health-care debate. Last night (Wednesday, 9 Sept 2009), almost like a pavlovian response, a republican Congressman, Joe Wilson, heckled and insulted President Barack Obama during the President's speech to a joint session of Congress on the question of health-care reform, using immigrant access to health care as the excuse.

During a speech describing his plan for health-care reform, the President clearly stated that no Federal money would be spent providing "illegal immigrants" with government-subsidized health care under his proposed plan. Wilson, a representative from South Carolina, shouted out, "you lie!"

It is sad that the debate has sunk to this level. Here's why:
- The republican congressman transmits the message that it's OK to heckle anyone, even the President, when you disagree.
- When a Congressman calls the President a liar, right in the Capitol, it gives everyone else permission to say what they like, where they like, to whomever they like, regardless of how disrespectful or unhelpful the statement may be.
- It reduces the level of discourse and debate in this country to all-or-nothing politics, and it encourages people to think that this is the best way to address the nation's difficulties.
- The charge of "you lie" says that no matter what one says, no matter what evidence one has, no matter what the facts show, you can simply discount and disregard something someone has to say by saying "you lie." This means that people don't have to engage, they don't have to look at the facts, they don't even have to listen -- they can just say, "I don't believe you," and that is the end of discussion.

Finally: we can see that certain factions of the USA will begin to use immigrants as a wedge, to delay or even halt all kinds of legislation needed for our nation, simply by saying that immigrants will gain some kind of benefit. They will even try to prohibit immigrants from using their own money to purchase health insurance on the open market. What's next? Will they prohibit immigrants from buying gasoline? Toilet paper?

Keep in mind that the debate over comprehensive immigration reform has not yet even begun in Congress. It becomes urgent that as the irrational attacks on immigrants escalate, people who know the truth speak out. "Call out" the nay-sayers. --jcf

September 9, 2009

Immigrants & the Health-Care Debate

newborn.jpgFong & Aquino in Los Angeles is devoted exclusively to advocacy for immigrants. Recently, those opposed to meaningful health-care reform have started to use the immigrant community as a political whipping boy once again, using scare tactics and making false claims about immigrants' use of, payment for, and access to health care.

Some important facts to keep in mind in this debate:

First: If more participants -- including immigrants -- pay into the insurance system and are covered by some health-care plan, this spreads risk over a larger group. It means that more people who need health care will be able to get it.

Second: There is a large group of people in this country who are not covered by meaningful health insurance. Over 40 million people. The vast, vast majority -- 78% -- of those without medical insurance are Americans! Legal and undocumented immigrants account for only 22% of the uninsured who are under MediCare age.

Third: It is simply untrue -- I repeat, UNTRUE -- that immigrants impact the health-care system disproportionately. A July 2009 study in the American Journal of Public Health found that immigrants not only use LESS medical care than Americans, but when they do use health care, they use LESS EXPENSIVE health care. Immigrants' per-person medical expenditures are 50% - 66% less than expenditures for the average American-born person.

Finally: Recent immigrants were responsible for about 1.4% of total public medical costs, even though they only constitute 5% of the population.

Access to quality health care is a simple human right which a government should provide its people. As the debate intensifies, we hope no one forgets to include this nation's immigrants. --jcf

September 3, 2009

DOL Fights to Tighten Rules for Farmworker Visas

The Bush Administration, in its final days, implemented rules to make it easier for farmers to hire temporary foreign laborers. These rules also arguably cause the reduction of wages and the proliferation of poor working conditions for all farmworkers, foreign and domestic. Although Fong & Aquino is in Los Angeles, we have had inquiries about the wages and conditions of employment faced by foreign farmworkers.

The Obama administration today moved to roll back some of those Bush Administration rules. This roll-back is expected to result in an increase of about $1.44 per hour for the average wage for farmworkers -- who often do back-breaking work for very long hours. The change in rules would also protect American workers from being displaced, if Americans wish to apply for and take such jobs. --jcf