Undocumented workers feed us. No matter what you think about immigration, they deserve health care.
Here’s the question I’m wrestling with: Should my home state of California offer subsidized health care coverage to undocumented immigrants?
No need to weigh. The question is debatable. California will soon become the first state to offer universal access to health coverage.
The historic change was part of Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s upcoming state budget allocation, which includes a plan to expand the state’s Medi-Cal program.
This program ensures low-income residents have access to publicly funded health care, and it already provides coverage for undocumented immigrants under age 26 or over age 50. it is safe to say that they represent the hardest working and most productive age group.
Starting January 1, 2024, Medi-Cal will be expanded to cover an additional 700,000 undocumented residents aged 26-49. The change is expected to result in the biggest drop in the rate of uninsured Californians in a decade.
That’s a good thing, isn’t it? I wasn’t so sure at first, needing to resolve the notion in my own head, and more importantly, in my own heart.
For me, ensuring that all undocumented immigrants have health insurance – from cradle to grave – conflicts with two different aspects of how I see the world.
On the one hand, in the immigration debate – just as in debates over gun control, abortion, vaccines or anything else – I avoid extremes and aim for the center. It means being willing to compromise, negotiate, and give a little to get a little back. You can’t go overboard, get greedy or take too much. You must be reasonable and restrained, and avoid policies supported by people on the radical fringe.
This part of me suggests that this change is not a good idea. It feels like Newsom and the Democrats running this state have given up on seeking consensus, and now they’re just rubbing the faces of Republicans in the progressive cause of which they are capable.
Why? Because they can. In a deep blue state where Democratic lawmakers can pass whatever they want without a single Republican vote, the ruling party is using it with abandon. And to borrow a word the liberal media overused during the reign of former President Donald Trump, Democrats want to “normalize” the idea that people are in the United States illegally.
If someone crosses a country’s border without permission or overstays a visa, that’s not something we should be so keen to sweep under the rug. The only exceptions are the so-called Dreamers who were brought here as children by their parents. We must always try to accommodate those who have no choice. But what California Democrats are doing now goes far beyond that. And, in a way, it’s inappropriate.
Think of the Texas Republicans’ greedy excesses on guns, abortion, and LGBTQ rights. Things can get ugly and crazy in a hurry when one side crushes the other, can’t they?
Well, that’s exactly what Republicans in California – the few that remain – think about the legislative chicanery unfolding in the Golden State.
“The global pandemic should have been a wake-up call that made it clear to Californians once and for all who is buttering their bread – after they’ve made both butter and bread.”
That said, there is another side to this story and another part of me. This party is not at all convinced by the criticism that giving health coverage to a group of hard-working, economically disadvantaged people who cannot afford it – and so they often just walk around, go working sick and making others sick – somehow “normalizes” the illegal activity.
It’s absurd. You know what really normalizes illegal immigration? The fact that Californian employers – starting with the typical household – can’t get enough of it and couldn’t live without it.
Californians, like most Americans, are addicted to cheap and reliable labor. Among the most dependent are American landlords, who have come to depend on the “temporary pool” of undocumented workers for gardeners, cleaners, nannies and elderly caregivers. (As well as farms, ranches, restaurants, hotels, resorts, and construction companies.)
In California, which has the world’s fifth-largest economy with an annual gross state product (GSP) of $3.4 trillion, if we didn’t have undocumented immigrants to turn the wheels, we’d have to invent them. .
And yet, even in this gargantuan economy, where the California state government has more money these days than it knows what to do with thanks to a $100 billion surplus, undocumented Californians constitute the largest group of uninsured in the state, according to the University. from the California-Berkeley Labor Center.
And where does this excess come from? Much of it comes not from individuals, but from businesses, companies, and corporations that do business in California.
Let’s look at just one such industry – one that would be totally crippled without undocumented workers (and that’s under normal circumstances, not the labor shortage we’re currently experiencing in the state): agriculture.
Don’t cry for California farmers. When they’re not growing peaches, avocados, lettuce, and dozens of other crops, they’re printing money. According to the Global Migration Center at the University of California-Davis, California’s 70,000 farms sold $50 billion worth of agricultural products in 2019. That was nearly double the $28 billion in agricultural sales from Iowa.
The global pandemic should have been a wake-up call that made it clear to Californians once and for all who is buttering their bread – after they’ve made both butter and bread.
In the Californian economy, which represents up to 15% of the total US economy, the “essential worker” is very often an undocumented person. When the state (and country) was hit with a frightening version of “food insecurity” and faced with empty grocery shelves, it was undocumented farm workers who came to the rescue.
And given all of this, even in the wealthiest agricultural county in the state — my home county of Fresno — there are still ignorant people calling in on conservative radio shows complaining about how “ illegal” drain the state.
It makes no sense!
To recap, California — which is fat and happy, thanks in large part to its overreliance on undocumented workers — will now ensure that those people who go to work every day at jobs that citizens Americans will not hit with a 10 – the foot shovel, rake, or hoe have basic medical coverage.
To that, I said, “Good. It was time. It’s the decent thing to do, and it’s the least we can do. Anyone who grumbles and complains about this “gift” should just say “gracias” and move on. Or they can go out into the fields on a summer day and see how they fare doing one of those “stolen” jobs. We will have paramedics by our side.
My inner conflict is resolved. Honesty and common sense got me through. In the end, the only moral thing to do is also the sensible thing. In our society, undocumented migrants are among the most vulnerable.
We have to take care of them because they take care of us. It really is that simple.