Those da*#ed illegal aliens using up our tax dollars
Well, put that title in quotation marks in your mind, would you please? I'm paraphrasing multiple conversations I hear all the time.
A recent discussion in the comments section on a blog I've been reading have me thinking again about this subject.
There appears to be a knee-jerk response by a certain segment of the American public (health professionals included) who, when given an example of compassionate care for an undocumented immigrant, state it's not fair:
"It's not fair to reward them for being here illegally".
"Why are they allowed to get medical treatment in the ER?"
"Why don't you all just turn them over to the Immigration folks?"
Without minimizing the problems implicit in large segments of folks entering the US illegally (there are problems, I acknowledge that), trying to control this by controlling access to health care is wrong. Doctors and nurses are ethically required to treat everyone who comes to them, and this includes major as well as minor criminals. We don't do background checks on you. We don't cut off your bloody clothes in the ER and see the knife wound, and then ask for your papers.
And we shouldn't.
In addition, public health measures that would attempt to weed out those who are here without legal status and not treat, are a danger to the rest of us. Tuberculosis treatment, for instance, would be ineffective if we only treated a certain portion of people in a community. An undocumented resident still spreads Tb to the rest of us, if untreated.
And a woman in labor is a woman in labor. Have we actually come to the point where the American public expects a hospital to toss her out on the street to deliver at the nearest 7-11 parking lot, because she can't prove her status among us?
Problems with illegal immigration should be handled at the point of entry (preventative measures, in other words) not at the point of necessity for health care. Health care is health care, and if we ourselves expect to be treated fairly regardless of our own age, race, income, or sexual background, then we make exclusionary rules with extreme care.