La Mariposa en la Pared

The everyday experiences of latino immigrants through the eyes of an outsider. Las vidas típicas de unos inmigrantes latinos a través de los ojos de una forastera.

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Location: Upstate NY, United States

"To me it’s always interesting when you get accepted somewhere you don’t really belong. It’s interesting when people open up and let you in their world." - Gilles Mingasson

Friday, August 10, 2007

What Free Health Care? Part 2

Last night I was approached by a young woman from Mexico asking if I knew where she could get contraceptives. In Mexico, they're available over the counter. Her two year old hija hugged her leg and stared up at me. They haven't been here for long. Her boyfriend drove to Chicago a couple weeks ago and brought her here so his little family could be together. In spite of what the prevailing vicious stereotypes suggest, the young couple intends to keep their family little, at least for a while.

We have a free clinic at the county health department, ten miles from our town, and there is even a Spanish-speaking doctor who works there from time to time. It's an STD clinic, though, and upon investigation, I found that they offer absolutely nothing for preventative care. Planned Parenthood was where I went as a young woman when I became sexually active, and at the time (in the late 80's) I received excellent care and free birth control. I don't remember having to fill out much paperwork, and I didn't even need to have my mother with me. I checked out their website this morning, however, and found that now you need to bring proof of residency, proof of citizenship, proof of income (or rather, proof that you have nearly NO income). You must, it said, have "SATISFACTORY IMMIGRATION STATUS."

I understand that American taxpayers don't want to pay for the health care of people who are here illegally. But I am coming to believe, the more I see the need, that it would be far less costly in the long run to provide essential preventative care to anyone who needs it, than to foot the hospital bill for a birth or emergency care for preventable ailments.

As I search for affordable women's care and dental care, I am not only looking to help non-citizens. I am keeping in mind those who were born and raised here, who have no money and no transportation, and no health insurance. I have stepped outside my white upper-middle-class, privileged life to see a very real and pressing need. Like the young woman with a broken molar who couldn't get treated because she is 17, even though she has lived on her own since she was 15, estranged from her bipolar, abusive mother and absent, apathetic father. She asked me if I knew of a "cheap dentist." As it turns out, there is no such thing. And emergency rooms don't do dental work.

When I lived in Mexico, I was struck with a bladder infection. I was treated for free (actually, upon arriving in the town, I had purchased "health insurance" for something like $3) at the Centro de Salud by a doctor who had recently graduated from med school. He was working for no wages for two years to repay the government assistance he had received for his education. Los pobres in our pueblito, and even us visiting gringos, received free, or nearly free, medical care. The doctor received his education, and he got to see first hand the need in the countryside. His life was changed for the better, and he got to help people who desperately needed him. I know our great nation does not look to Mexico for pointers, but this seems like a good idea to me. Health professionals here could donate part of their time and effort to treat the poor, no matter who "the poor" is, in exchange for a break on their tuition.

But that idea doesn't help me right now. I will do what I can to find Mari a doctor who will prescribe the pill for her. Or, she will try to get her man to use a condom consistently, and end up having more children before she really wants to. And listen to the neighbors bitch about how those Mexicans breed like rabbits, and how their taxes are going for the immigrant children's education and health care.

They are here, no matter how much some people argue that they shouldn't be. It is in everyones best interest to provide affordable health care for them and for our own poor citizens.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

"What part of ILLEGAL don't they understand?"

Oftentimes I have heard people justify their hateful attitudes toward los indocumentados by saying that they don't oppose LEGAL immigration, only ILLEGAL immigration. To me, the legality of their entry into this country has always been pretty far down the list of what's really important. Why? Is it because I have no regard for the law? Don't I realize the importance of the rule of law in maintaining order? No, it's because people are suffering, and that's more important than any law. Kyle from Immigration Orange summed it up for me beautifully:

"We have to look beyond temporary fixes like walls and securities and consider the global climate that is forcing these migrants to leave in the first place. Whether their movement is legal or illegal should not be the question, the question should be whether or not what is happening to them is just or unjust. We have to move away from questions of legality to questions of justice, and anyone that has interacted with migrants on any level will conclude that what is being done to them is unjust."