Natalia J. Garland
Mayor of New York City is Michael Bloomberg. On July 5, 2006, he
gave a testimony to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Field
Hearing on Federal Immigration Legislation. His testimony, as per
my reading of it, seemed to contain some inconsistencies and
skewed connections. I will respond to certain parts of
Bloomberg's testimony and will organize my thoughts under
categories of Healthcare, Education, America's Middle Class,
National Sovereignty, Future Immigrants, and Alternatives. I will
show that some New York City businesses are apparently employing
an underclass workforce of uneducated and uninsured people in
low-pay service jobs in New York City.
New York City
that there are over 3 million immigrants in New York City;
500,000 of whom entered the country illegally. Immigrants
account for around 40 percent of the city's population. Most
immigrants live in the boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, and
Manhattan. Among students classified with Limited English
Proficiency (L.E.P.) or as English Language Learners (E.L.L.),
over 176 languages are spoken. Eighty-eight percent of these
students speak the city's top 9 languages. The top 5 spoken
languages (2001-2002) are:
America, including their children, seem to be highly motivated for
upward mobility. For some, as they encounter obstacles in their
new life, this motivation decreases. Immigrants face problems
peculiar to their status as immigrants: crowded housing, low wages,
and language barriers. They also face problems with which
U.S.-born citizens struggle in modern America: healthcare and
education. The impact of immigrants on these systems, and the
debate over whether immigrants give to or take from these systems,
has become more controversial in post-9/11 America.
Bloomberg seems to
advocate for the use of medical services by people who have
entered the country illegally. But he connects their need for
medical care to the need to protect citizens from contagious
diseases. "Do we really want people with contagious
diseases not to seek medical treatment? Do we really want people
not to get vaccinated against communicable diseases?"
According to the
New York State Department of Health, several contagious diseases
showed a decrease in numbers of cases in 2004: including A.I.D.S.,
gonorrhea, hepatitis A, hepatitis B-acute, malaria, measles,
rubella, salmonellosis, shigellosis, syphilis early, tuberculosis,
and typhoid fever. A few contagious diseases showed an increase
in numbers of cases: including encephalitis, haemophilus
influenzae, meningitis aseptic, mumps, and pertusis (whooping
cough). The most severe increase was meningitis aseptic which
reached from a low of 127 cases in 1996 to a high of 706 in 2004.
|DISEASES - N.Y.C.
||CASES - 2004
|Hepatitis B - Acute
|Toxic Shock Syndrome
Is it fair to say
that immigrants are spreading these diseases? It must be noted
that diseases are also spread by the homeless (including the
homeless who have been incarcerated) and by drug addicts, and that
these two groups of people often overlap. A report entitled,
"Tuberculosis and Homelessness in the United States,
1994-2003," states: "Black individuals represented the
highest proportion of T.B. cases among the homeless and
non-homeless. The proportion of homeless persons with T.B. who
were born outside the United States (18%) was lower than that for
non-homeless persons with T.B. (44 percent)."
An earlier report,
"Tuberculosis Among Foreign-Born Persons in the United
States, 1993-1998," stated: "During 1993-1998, the T.B.
case rate was 32.9 per 100,000 population in foreign-born persons
compared with 5.8 per 100,000 in U.S.-born persons." What
accounts for the differences in these two reports? It is possible
that, with the passing of time, people indeed sought medical
services. It is also reported that the states bordering
Mexcio--Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas--experience
76.7 percent of the tuberculosis cases in America. For the
purpose of this essay, it is significant that the tuberculosis
cases in New York City, 1995-2004, reached a high of 2445 in 1995
and a low of 1039 in 2004.
In New York City
there are hospitals and clinics which offer services to the
uninsured on a sliding-scale fee basis. The fee for outpatient
services ranges from $15.00 to $60.00. These systems will also
help patients apply for government assistance. There are 17 such
hospitals located in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. There
are also 17 clinics located in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the
Bronx, and Staten Island which offer various free services for
tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases, flu shots, and
immunizations for children.
therefore, do not appear to be uncontrollable in New York City.
But people need medical services for conditions other than
contagious diseases. There are both emergency and non-emergency
conditions for which people use hospital emergency rooms. Around
55 percent of illegal Hispanic immigrants are uninsured. The
following is an example of a problem which many Americans worry is
more typical of illegal immigrant hospital use:
Ten months ago, Saul
Diaz, an illegal immigrant, was in a car accident which almost
killed him. In an effort to keep him alive, doctors at the Gwinnet
Medical Center in Atlanta removed his spleen, repaired head wounds,
a fractured arm, and holes in his intestines at a cost of $810,000
which will eventually be forwarded to tax payers. Currently, Diaz
still has a hole in his stomach the size of a pineapple and gets
hospital wants him to be cared for at home by his family members
or in a nursing home until a final surgery will close the hole.
The hospital negotiated with the Mexican Consulate who agreed to
transfer Diaz to a Mexican hospital but later revoked his promise
because Diaz's family did not want him in Mexico. Diaz's family
residing in the U.S. also refused to care for him because they
could not afford it.
argue that the hospital's actions are unconscionable and that Diaz
is not being given proper treatment because he is an uninsured,
illegal immigrant. However, the larger issue is the hospital's
cost of treating uninsured illegal immigrants. Currently,
hospitals are required by federal law to provide emergency
treatment to anyone until they are stabilized. However, the cost
for caring for uninsured patients in Atlanta has risen
dramatically over the past two years. From 1997 to 1998, the cost
rose from 2.7 million to $5.1 million at Gwinnett Medical Center,
and two other hospitals closed partly because they could not
afford to treat uninsured patients.
[End of quote.]
A 2000 study by
R.A.N.D. entitled, "Do Immigrant Children Use Medicaid
Differently?" takes a look at the cost of medical services
for immigrants' children:
Thus, the marginal
cost of extending Medicaid eligibility to children of immigrants
appears to have been small. These results do not imply that the
total cost of providing Medicaid to immigrant children is
insignificant; as discussed above, the United States has been
spending on the order of $5.5 billion per year on Medicaid
payments for children of immigrants. The key point is that
reducing Medicaid eligibility for these children will not
necessarily save money as long as children remain eligible for
costly emergency care. In fact, costs could increase if lack of
preventive care eventually increases the number of emergency
[End of quote.]
does not mention any situations such as the above in his
testimony. Bloomberg also does not mention immigrant problems
with substance abuse, domestic violence, suicide and attempted
suicide; and obesity among immigrant children. He also does not
mention that immigrants are prone to misdiagnosis due to language
barriers. Immigrant health and mental health problems, and
immigrant use of medical services, need to be studied thoroughly
and objectively in order to establish fair immigration laws and
policies and to develop efficient health programs. Americans need
to know if cases like that of Saul Diaz are rare or common.
The Center for
Immigration Studies reports (2004) that illegal immigrants account
for 3.6 percent of the population, 0.9 percent of tax payments to
the federal government, and 5.6 percent of the cost of federal
(not state or local) programs. In dollars and cents, illegal
immigrants create an excess of $7 billion annually for Social
Security and Medicare Part A; and a deficit of $10.4 billion
annually from federal services. Some of this deficit results
from low tax payments rather than actual use of services. Illegal
immigrants tend to make less money (therefore are taxed less) and
to have larger families than mainstream Americans. Illegal
immigrants' children born in the U.S. are legal American citizens
and eligible for Medicaid. Illegal immigrants also use W.I.C. and
school lunch programs. Although not the focus of this essay, it
should be noted that illegal immigrants account for nearly
one-fifth of federal prisoners which has an impact on the cost of
operating prisons and courts.
The graduation rate
of all students in New York City is 52.7 percent. The
graduation rate of L.E.P. students is 43.5 percent. However,
new immigrant children are highly motivated and teachers report
it is a pleasure to teach them. There are various explanations
as to why many of them do not excel. English deficiency is
probably the major reason for their dropping out of high school.
Immigrant children come to America with different levels of native
language skills. Some know their native language fluently, while
others are below their age level in their own language. Lack of
native language skills is often due to lack of educational
opportunities in their native country and to adverse political
realities. Mexican immigrant parents often come from rural areas,
are uneducated and unable to help their children with homework.
As an example of
adult immigrants, the following chart shows the levels of English
proficiency among Korean immigrants with a mean age of 49 years:
||KOREAN IMMIGRANTS - 2005
|Not Well (L.E.P.)
|Not at All
immigrant children and U.S.-born minority children tend to lose
interest in school work. When immigrant children learn that they
have an illegal status in America, they can become discouraged
about their future. U.S.-born minority students who experience
discrimination can develop an oppositional attitude toward
Yet, Bloomberg says,
"For our children to have a bright future, two things are
true: a strong America needs a constant source of new immigrants.
And in a post 9/11 world, a secure America needs to make sure that
those immigrants arrive here legally." "We have a
right--and a duty--to encourage people to come, and at the same
time to ensure that no one who is on a terrorist watch list sneaks
into our country." With an overall high school graduation
rate of 52.7 percent, is it not absurd to conclude that more
immigration will provide our children with a bright future?
If our children include immigrant and minority children,
then I fail to see any connection between their wellbeing and
school dropout rates.
What happens to the
dropouts of New York City? A few will go on to get their G.E.D.'s.
But what about the others? Where will they get jobs? Will they
become the next generation of dishwashers, hotel maids, and
nannys? All legitimate jobs are honorable, and society needs
people to work in service jobs, but will the dropouts (both
citizen and non-citizen) work alongside new illegal immigrants on
low-paying jobs with few or no benefits? Bloomberg states,
"By taking advantage of current technology, we can provide
the federal government with the tools necessary to enforce our
immigration laws and protect workers from exploitative and abusive
conditions." Does this mean that employers will be required
to increase wages, provide health insurance, pay overtime for more
than a 40-hour work week, and cease any off-the-books cash wages?
If so, how will New York City's lawbreaking businesses survive?
Bloomberg needs to answer these questions.
immigrants, for example, working in restaurants, hair and nail
salons, dry cleaners, groceries and delis, many (73 percent) are
subjected to overtime work without any employment agreement for
a higher overtime pay. The following chart shows the number of
hours worked per week by Korean immigrants:
|Over 80 Hours
|Less Than 40 Hours
Probably many of us
work overtime without pay to keep our jobs. Who among
professionals has not come in early, stayed late, worked a weekend,
or taken work home just to catch up on paperwork or phone calls?
There are differences, however, between exploited professionals
and exploited immigrants. Professionals usually work on salary
and are sometimes expected to work adjusted hours, and perhaps
be compensated in the form of extra time off. Also, professionals
are entitled to paid holidays and sick days which most immigrant
workers probably to do not receive. Working 50 hours per week is
a lot more bearable if you know you will have both the time and
the money to take a nice vacation.
citizens also encounter problems with healthcare and education
as these systems become both inadequate and expensive. The
majority of families with an income of over $50,000 per year are
insured. Hispanics and blacks are less likely than whites to
work on jobs where health insurance is provided. High school
dropouts are almost twice as likely not to have health insurance
as those who graduated. Despite these facts, all Americans
including immigrants and illegal immigrants are at risk for
substandard medical care. Five hundred people die unnecessarily
per day in America's hospitals. Moreover, some insured workers
will hesitate to seek medical care because of high deductible
|UNISURED BY EDUCATION
|Less Than High School
|Graduate or Professional Degree
Is America's middle
class disappearing, or transforming into something different for
the next generation? Bloomberg states, "Although they broke
the law by illegally crossing our borders or overstaying their
visas, and our businesses broke the law by employing them, our
City's economy would be a shell of itself had they not, and it
would collapse if they were deported. The same holds true for the
nation." This is a powerful and shocking statement. Is it
true that America would collapse without uneducated,
uninsured, low-skilled workers; some of whom are being abused and
exploited by their employers? Are they, rather than the middle
class, the backbone of America? Bloomberg proposes that current
illegal immigrants receive amnesty. Does that mean New York City
will respect their rights as legal workers? Will this then cause
New York City's economy to collapse?
In 2004 the poverty
level was $9,827 for an individual and $19,484 for a family of
four. Perhaps this represents a significant increase in income
for new immigrants, especially as this money is sent back to their
under-developed native countries to help family members, but this
does not represent the fruits of America's work ethic and the hope
of upward mobility. This is not sustainable, educationally or
economically, for the continuation of America's middle class.
The definition of middle class (in my opinion) must include high
school graduation, a minimum income of $40,000, health insurance,
pension participation, manageable credit cards, positive net worth,
and opportunity to advance to a higher level within the middle
class or to the upper class.
The Hispanic middle
class in America is smaller than the white middle class, but a
study (1998) by the Thomas Rivera Policy Institute shows that it
is increasing. This is true, however, of U.S.-born assimilated
Hispanics and much less true of foreign-born Hispanics. (One
survey shows that middle-class, middle-aged, U.S.-born Hispanics
are more likely to favor strict immigration laws than foreign-born
Hispanics. This division within the Hispanic community seldom
receives media attention.) It is new immigrants, many currently
working in America illegally, to whom Bloomberg seems to refer
when he says that the American economy would collapse without them.
It is astounding that America, the most successful democracy in the
world, has become dependent on an underclass of the working poor.
Let me interject
that I do not think that an immigrant dishwasher with a 6th-grade
education should expect to make as much money as a college
professor. Sometimes people have to start at the bottom and work
their way up. Today's immigrant dishwasher, however, should be
able to expect that he can learn fluent English, get a G.E.D., and
aspire to become tomorrow's restaurant manager. The immigrant
dishwasher's labor should not be abused or exploited just because
he is both desperate and highly motivated for a better life.
Bloomberg also says,
"It's as if we expect border control agents to do what a
century of communism could not: defeat the natural market forces
of supply and demand and defeat the natural human desire for
freedom and opportunity. You might as well sit in your beach chair
and tell the tide not to come in."
may have tried to "defeat the natural human desire for
freedom and opportunity," America's border control agents
are not reincarnations of communist oppressors. The Border Patrol
is responsible for monitoring traffic into America. It is their
job to prevent illegal entry as well as to prevent the smuggling
of W.M.D., drugs, and contraband. Our national sovereignty, which
would include protection of lands and preservation of values, is
essential to our democracy. It is not the intention of the Border
Patrol or the U.S. government to squash the hopes and dreams of
impoverished people. Border Patrol officers rescue thousands of
people who otherwise would die while attempting to cross the
desert. Communist leaders were torturers and mass-murderers.
Border Patrol agents are heroes.
Bloomberg states he
is in favor of comprehensive immigration reform but, when he
compares illegal immigration to the tide coming in, it sounds like
he actually believes in open borders. He seems to advocate for
reform only as a means to procure homeland security (and to
maintain federal funding for homeland security in New York City).
While he states that New York City would collapse without its
current illegal workers, and he finds it "understandable"
that businesses need to hire these workers, he nevertheless blames
the federal government for allowing this situation to exist.
Bloomberg makes several such contradicting statements, as though
attempting to appease all parties involved with or affected by
immigration reform, thereby rendering the text of his testimony a
maze to analyze.
immigration reform laws will go into effect. America will
continue to welcome immigrants. Let us hope our lawmakers will
accurately assess our country's needs and capacity, and
systematize immigration to promote our prosperity and ideals. The
new laws will, with greater or lesser weight, focus on (1)
post-9/11 security, (2) national sovereignty, (3) law enforcement
and penalties for lawbreaking, (4) humanitarian values, (5)
international relationships (particularly with Mexico--there are
over 2,600 U.S. companies in Mexico), and (6) partisan politics.
In addition, I have provided suggestions on how to avoid some of
the past mistakes and confusion.
Guideline for Hiring Immigrants:
- Employment preference must be given to American citizens.
- Employers must offer livable and on-the-books wages.
- Employers must provide health insurance to both full-time and
part-time employees, with family-plan options.
- Insurance companies must provide plans with low deductibles
and low co-payments.
- States welcoming illegal immigrants should consider state
insurance plans such as those recently implemented by Massachusetts
and Vermont (and taxpayers must understand and agree to such
funding, especially if any illegal residents become eligible for
free medical services).
come to America as students, temporary workers, or as immigrants
seeking citizenship, their experience of America should be
positive. Those who return to their native countries should be
able to speak favorably of Americans and our form of government.
Those who seek citizenship should be treated fairly. Everyone
should obey the immigration reform laws. And, those laws should
be constructed such that there will be absolutely no
"understandable" need or excuse for lawbreaking.
America, regarded by
many as the land of immigrants, cannot contain all the people of
the world. Moreover, unplanned and massive immigration over a
relatively short period of time places burdens on hospitals and
schools. Those of us who care about the welfare of people, rather
than the exploitation of their labor or the manipulation of their
potential political clout, might consider ways to improve the
quality of life in other countries so that immigration is not the
only viable alternative to poverty or persecution.
The Peace Corps
began in 1960 under President John F. Kennedy. Over 182,000
volunteers have provided services to 138 countries. Currently,
most volunteers teach school, work in agriculture, increase
awareness of A.I.D.S./H.I.V., and help develop business and
technology. Americans who volunteer for the Peace Corps improve
the lives of others through sharing expertise as well as
establishing personal relationships. Citizens of other countries
can remain in their communities, keep their families intact,
maintain their own cultures, and speak their native languages.
consideration is the sponsorship of children through organizations
such as World Vision and the Christian Children's Fund. These
organizations work with children, their families and communities.
Besides receiving education and health care, children feel hope
for their future and increased self-esteem through correspondence
with their sponsor. Individuals can sponsor a child (or more than
one child); and school and church groups can also sponsor a child
as a humanitarian project.
to the world's problems does not have to involve extreme
either/or thinking. If people really care, and if we use
a little creative thinking, we can help one another and develop
friendly international relationships.
[NOTE: This essay
was extremely difficult to write due to lack of current, specific,
and reliable information. Utmost care was taken to find unbiased
data. The author's purpose was to gather information into a
unified whole, and not to argue the pros and cons of immigration
or to judge any group of people on the basis of their economic or
social status. The remarks directed at Michael Bloomberg are the
author's personal reactions. This essay is therefore subject to
error.] (Written 08/07/06: bibliography available.)
Until we meet