Should U.S. Provide Health Care for Illegal Migrant Farm Workers?
Thursday, June 14, 2012
(photo: Butch Dill, AP)
The battle over illegal immigration has ensnared federally-funded health clinics that face losing support from Washington, as well as patients too afraid to seek medical help.
In Alabama, operators of local clinics have had to conduct outreach in farm fields because migrant workers won’t visit the medical facilities. Since the state adopted a tough anti-illegal immigration law, undocumented immigrants have avoided drawing attention to themselves for fear of being caught by law enforcement and deported.
Clinic officials from around the country have reported that local, state and federal law enforcement officers sometimes stake out clinics to catch illegal immigrants trying to receive medical care.
For 50 years, the clinics have operated with funding from the federal government, while providing vaccination services and medical care, in part to stem the spread of disease. Supporters point out that many of those who seek care, although they may be in the country illegally, handle the nation’s food supply, making it important to keep these workers healthy. About 48% of hired crop farmworkers are not legally authorized to work in the United States.
But conservative groups in Washington oppose federal tax dollars going to pay for the medical services of illegal immigrants.
“These people have a responsibility to take care of their own health needs … and not stick American taxpayers with this obligation,” Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, told Kaiser Health News.
To Learn More:
Migrant Health Clinics Caught in Crossfire of Immigration Debate (by Phil Galewitz, Kaiser Health News)
Legal Status of Hired Crop Farmworkers (Economic Research Service)
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