Delegate Ron George on Illegal Immigrants and Driver's Licenses ~ Annapolis Capital Punishment

Monday, March 10, 2008

Delegate Ron George on Illegal Immigrants and Driver's Licenses

District 30 Delegate Ron George (R-Arnold) has taken the lead on a bill to clamp down on illegal immigrants getting driver's licenses. While I am in full agreement with the need for a real national policy on illegal immigration and for states to take action as well, I question some of George's fears and concerns, especially when he starts talking about infectious diseases and health care.

For example, he writes:

"There has been a rise in infectious diseases. Tuberculosis, malaria, plague, polio, dengue, hepatitis A to E, and Chagas' disease cases are on the rise in illegal immigrant target states......Foreigners with diseases or in need of operations can head here illegally. They are openly received and get treatment at the expense of taxpayers and hospitals, since by law hospitals must treat everyone."

Why do I have a problem with this? For starters, I think it's overstated and it plays on our worst fears. Handgun violence kills tens of thousands a year, automobile wrecks claim tens of thousands, over three thousand soldiers have died in Iraq, and AIDS has killed countless thousands. We have a ridiculously administered so-called health care system, and a population of sedentary, overweight, poorly nourished and overfed walking diabetes and heart disease time-bombs, but whooaaa.....immigrants are spreading disease! I think we've heard it before, like when my grandparents came here from Russia and Poland.

The issue is that if someone is here illegally, how can we even consider granting them privileges such as a driver's license and access to health care? There are many, many recent immigrants going to the County's Health Department on Truman Parkway to get pre-natal care, and from what I understand, it has overwhelmed that department. Yes--we need to stop illegal immigration and deal with all the illegal immigrants here. It won't be easy. It won't be painless, but we missed the chance to have a national dialogue on this thirty years ago. They are here, and if they weren't, things would be very different for us. For example, you probably would not be able to buy cheap processed poultry at the grocery store. Sure--that's just one example, but what an enormous industry that has become, and based, I would venture, almost solely on new immigrants.

Elsewhere on these pages, I have written about the increasing incidents of people with Hispanic surnames being caught driving without licenses. I don't want anyone driving around without a license, but if they are here illegally, we cannot give them one! But this is what I ask as we debate this--please, let us all be careful of the rhetoric. And let's not ever forget the reasons why so many people are coming here. When my grandparents came here, they were escaping conditions which had nothing to do with the foreign policies of the US government. Many of the people coming here now are coming here as a direct result of US foreign--and even domestic policy. We are rich. They are poor. We hire them to do cheap labor for us, so don't hate them or blame them. They are victims as much as some of us who are being adversely affected by their presence.

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