Free Speech Doesn't Pay the Bills

Cross-posted at Taylor Marsh.

I first moved to China in August 2003, the summer after the SARS epidemic killed 774 people in Asia and North America. First reactions to my announcement usually fell into one of two categories. The first was the Are you crazy? Don't you know people are dying of SARS? group. For those of you with concerns about SARS, I refer you to the foremost experts on this topic, the residents of South Park.


The second was the How can you live in such a brutal, authoritarian country where the people are so oppressed? group. For those of us who grew up during the Cold War--I was in high school when the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union crumbled--the word communism likely congers images of a Chinese man standing in front of a tank in Beijing in June 1989, East German soldiers carrying the body of a man shot dead trying to escape to West Berlin, President Kennedy addressing the nation during the Cuban Missile Crisis, or President Reagan in Berlin declaring, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." Thus, like those who questioned me, I was anticipating a tightly controlled society where people were bitter and desperate for freedom.

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Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

*    An article titled "Immigrants Facing Deportation by U.S. Hospitals" appeared in the magazine section of The New York Times on Sunday.  By telling the story of Luis Alberto Jiménez, it documents the disastrous consequences that are the result of inherent failures in the American immigration and health care systems. Below is an excerpt from the article:

Many American hospitals are taking it upon themselves to repatriate seriously injured or ill immigrants because they cannot find nursing homes willing to accept them without insurance. Medicaid does not cover long-term care for illegal immigrants, or for newly arrived legal immigrants, creating a quandary for hospitals, which are obligated by federal regulation to arrange post-hospital care for patients who need it.

American immigration authorities play no role in these private repatriations, carried out by ambulance, air ambulance and commercial plane. Most hospitals say that they do not conduct cross-border transfers until patients are medically stable and that they arrange to deliver them into a physician's care in their homeland. But the hospitals are operating in a void, without governmental assistance or oversight, leaving ample room for legal and ethical transgressions on both sides of the border.

*    Various ICE policies have been scrutinized in a number of news articles this week.  A DMI Blog posting discusses the ICE policy of neglecting to inform local police of its decision to conduct a raid in an area.  This ICE policy is carried out completely inconsistently - sometimes ICE notifies local law enforcement, sometimes it does not.  ICE conducted its recent raid in Sante Fe, New Mexico (where it took 30 undocumented immigrants into custody) without notifying Sante Fe Mayor Cross beforehand.  According to the posting, Cross was completely opposed to the raid.  He said:
"We know what the right thing to do is. We have political leadership that wants to keep us from doing [the right thing] because the division works for them. But it doesn't work for us. And most people know that."

ICE's notification policy is not its only inconsistent policy.  According to the Associated Press, ICE's distribution of border patrol agents is a completely political process.  The article says that many people have suggested that ICE rewards friendly Congressmen with more border patrol agents in their district:
The 60-mile San Diego sector is at the southern end of a county with roughly 3 million people...

But the sector is already heavily reinforced: Two-thirds of the border is blocked by fences or vehicle barriers. The most populous part of the boundary has nearly 10 miles of double-layer fences with stadium lights...

San Diego is represented by Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Republican who has been among the most outspoken proponents of increased border security and fences.

The Huffington Post has also criticized ICE for supporting the discredited Center for Immigration Studies report that says border patrol has been the main reason immigration to the U.S. has fallen.  Many researchers have shown that the failing economy is the main reason immigration has been decreasing:
The US needs a practical, fair, and reasonable solution to immigration that includes smart enforcement measures. Political theater and gimmicks won't constrict the supply or demand for immigrant labor.

In addition, The Sanctuary is reporting that the ACLU has obtained a copy of the manual that the government distributes to attorneys who defend those who are arrested in immigration raids:
The manual contains prepackaged scripts for plea and sentencing hearings as well as documents providing for guilty pleas and waivers of rights to be used by both the judges and attorneys in expediting procedures as quickly as possible with little regard for due process.

The ACLU has made the manual publicly available.

*    Postville update: Standing FIRM has linked to a Chicago Tribune story on the allegations of child labor law violations at the Agriprocessors plant.  The government has finally begun cracking down on the company for the horrific abuse of its employees:

State officials say the types of child labor violations at the plant included minors working in prohibited occupations, exceeding allowable hours for youth to work, failure to obtain work permits, exposure to hazardous chemicals and working with prohibited tools.

*    The National Center for Lesbian Rights has become involved in a case involving a gay HIV-positive Pakistani man who is seeking asylum in the U.S. on the grounds that he will be persecuted if he returns to his country of origin.  The Center filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiff to the Board of Immigration Appeals:
Under Pakistani law, being gay is punishable by death and LGBT people are forced to live in secrecy and constant fear of exposure. The Immigration Judge ignored the serious risk of persecution that S.K. faces and denied his application for asylum.

*    ABC News has called attention to a recently released report on the human rights abuses that immigrants are subject to at detention centers run by private companies.  The report, conducted by the human rights group OneAmerica and the Seattle University School of Law, concludes that people held at these detention facilities, specifically one that GEO Group, Inc. runs, are routinely harassed, verbally and physically abused and subjected to poor to non-existent health care.
This is not the first time GEO has been accused of violating the rights of inmates in its care.  In 2000, when the company was known as Wackenhut Corrections Corporation, the U.S. Department of Justice sued them over "excessive abuse and neglect" of inmates at the Jena Juvenile Justice Center in Jena, Louisiana.

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I can't be the only one who gets this feeling

Maybe I'm nuts or unhinged or maybe I'm not. Perhaps its stress or the nerves acting up.  I need to lay off watching the news and politics.  Though something tells me I'm not gonna shake off this feeling I keep getting. Maybe some of you have felt this weird sense of dread too.

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Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

*    Department of Homeland Security officials have come out in support of a Center for Immigration Studies report that claims that border control measures are the cause of a decrease in immigration to the U.S.  However, the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at University of California, San Diego has rebutted those claims and determined that the border patrol apprehends fewer than half of the undocumented immigrants that come into the country through the Mexico/U.S. border.  According to The Huffington Post, the Center for Immigration Studies (an anti-immigrant advocacy group) and the Department of Homeland Security failed to consider reasons other than border control measures that explain why immigration to the U.S. would naturally decline:

When citing the decrease in both apprehensions at the border and remittances sent by workers in the United States to family members in Mexico, Chertoff also failed to consider the fact that undocumented immigration naturally decreases when the U.S. economy is in recession. [Director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies Dr. Wayne] Cornelius' report shows that undocumented migration clearly responds to changing U.S. economic conditions, with significant decreases during economic downturns such as the one we are in now.

Moreover, Chertoff's border control measures are completely inconsistent with the fundamentally positive effect immigration has on American communities.  Providing opportunity for immigrants has been a core value in the U.S. since its founding.  To see more immigration myths dispelled, read The Opportunity Agenda fact sheet, Immigrants and Opportunity.

*    In one of last month's blog roundups on The State of Opportunity, a story about a sheriff in Maricopa County, Arizona appeared.  That same sheriff, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, is in the news once again.  An editorial in The Washington Post discusses how  "Sheriff Joe" and his officers have been continuing the "policing strategy" of locking up all Hispanic people they encounter, regardless of if they have any evidence that they are undocumented immigrants or have committed any crime.  According to Arizona Central, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon has had to resort to calling for a media mobilization against Arpaio:

"He (Arpaio) has become the false messiah," Gordon said. "But when the light is shined on him, people will see that he isn't helping to fight illegal immigration and he's just making the situation worse. You've got an individual with a badge and a gun who's breaking the law and abusing his authority."

We need real solutions, ones that are brought about by comprehensive immigration reform and promote opportunity for all, not a gross miscarriage of justice carried out by a rogue officer like Arpaio.

*    Thankfully, not all police officers feel the same way Arpaio does - George Gascón, a former assistant chief in the Los Angeles Police Department, has written this op-ed for The New York Times.  In it he argues that using local police officers as a means to enforce federal immigration policy will ultimately lead to the public, particularly in communities of color, distrusting the police department:

Here in Arizona, a wedge is being driven between the local police and some immigrant groups. Some law enforcement agencies are wasting limited resources in operations to appease the public's thirst for action against illegal immigration regardless of the legal or social consequences...

If we become a nation in which the local police are the default enforcers of a failing federal immigration policy, the years of trust that police departments have built up in immigrant communities will vanish. Some minority groups may once again view police officers as armed instruments of government oppression.

*    The effects from the ICE raid in Postville are still being felt, reminding us just how detrimental this raid was to the Iowa community and America as a whole.  The Des Moines Register is reporting that the new employees at the Agriprocessors plant have had a significant, negative effect on the local community:
The impact is evident: New laborers are changing Postville. The Agriprocessors Inc. meatpacking plant, the site of the immigration raid, once employed men and women with families. Now, its workers are mostly young, single people with no stake in the community and nothing to lose...

The rise in crime has strained Postville's tiny police department. One night in June, the calls were so numerous that police asked the local bar to close early.

A protest rally also took place in Postville last weekend - it was documented in a video, which is now available on YouTube.

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Monday Health Blog Roundup

*    In the past week, there have been numerous reports that call attention to the disparities among those living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S.  The Kaiser Health Disparities Report has linked to a CBS Evening News story on the disproportionate number of African Americans that have HIV or AIDS.  According to the story, blacks account for 49% of new HIV diagnoses, 69% of AIDS cases among ages 13 to 19 and 56% of AIDS cases among ages 20-24.  Despite these high percentages, blacks only make up 13% of the population:

"No matter how you look at it through the lens of gender or sexual orientation or age or socioeconomic class or level of education or region of the country where you live, black folks bear the brunt of the AIDS epidemic in this country," Phill Wilson, founder of the Black AIDS Institute, said. Wilson added that early HIV/AIDS advocates did not send the right HIV prevention and education messages to the black community. "The mischaracterization of the epidemic in the early days ... made black folks think we didn't have to pay attention to the disease," Wilson said.

*    Rates of HIV/AIDS are not only disproportionate in African American communities - The Washington Post is reporting that Hispanics represent 22% of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses, despite only making up 14% of the population.  While the Post notes that HIV rates are highest among blacks, it also claims it is harder to target enough resources towards Latinos, particularly those who are immigrants, who have been diagnosed with HIV:
Blacks still have the highest HIV rates in the country, but language difficulties, cultural barriers and, in many cases, issues of legal status make the threat in the Hispanic community unique. For those who arrived illegally, in particular, fear of arrest and deportation presents a daunting obstacle to seeking diagnosis and treatment.

*    On a more positive note, the Senate passed a bill that calls for a reauthorization of federal funding for a program that supports community health centers, the Deseret News reported last Tuesday.  The bill, sponsored by Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), allows for continued support for health centers that provide affordable and quality care for many Americans, particularly  those with low income:
Hatch said that since 2001, increased funding has enabled community health centers to treat 4 million new patients in more than 750 communities across the nation. His bill reauthorizes funding for the program for five more years.

*    State governments were also discussing implementing health care measures this past week - in Massachusetts, the Council on Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, chaired by State Senator Dianne Wilkerson and State Representative Byron Rushing, met on July 21 to discuss the recommendations of the Special Legislative Commission on Health Disparities.  According to A Healthy Blog, the Council discussed various successes and failures in the state's health care reform:
The presenters all pointed to the success of health care access expansion in Massachusetts as an important step in disparities elimination efforts, but also noted the need to continue working to address quality, cultural competence, and social context problems.

*    According to The Health Care Blog, The Century Foundation has announced that it is creating a working group to establish a blueprint for Medicare reform.  Maggie Mehar, author of HealthBeat Blog, will direct the group and plans to review issues such as:
Revising Medicare's physician fee schedule to pay more for primary care, palliative care, and co-ordination and management of chronic diseases.

Rethinking Medicare's fee-for-service system to reward doctors for quality, not volume.

Creating an independent Comparative Effectiveness Institute that reviews head-to-head testing of drugs, devices, and procedures to ensure that they are effective.

Identifying and rewarding hospitals that provide better outcomes and higher patient satisfaction at a lower cost while helping other hospitals meet benchmarks.

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