Proposition 187: Don't Mess With Texas

In November of 1994, Californians passed the most controversial piece of
state legislation this decade. Proposition 187 was designed to stem the flow of
illegal aliens into California by withholding all non-emergency medical benefits
from non-naturalized citizens. Latinos turned out in record numbers to voice
their disapproval, and for good reason too. The health care resolutions of
Proposition 187 were products of poor reason and unsound economic judgment. The
resolutions did not get the state any closer to a balanced budget, and only
served to worsen the health care outlook for the future of California. It is
clear that Proposition 187 was a mistake, and should not be encouraged to be
repeated in Texas.
The most popular reason for passage, that supporters of Proposition 187
used, was the theory that a cut in illegal health services would save state
taxpayers several million dollars a year. This argument only applies to states
that have a personal income tax, often used to help fund health care for the
state, and when the illegal immigrants avoid paying this tax. Texas does not
have such a tax, so health care is funded by the taxes that everyone in the
state pays. That means that illegal aliens are paying just as much as "real
Americans" are in sales taxes, gas taxes, liquor taxes, and cigarette taxes. For
example, illegal aliens in San Diego, California accounted for 26.6 million
dollars in health care costs in 1994 (Serb 63). Not a single person would deny
that this is a lot of money, and therefore would seem to be an excellent reason
to cut funding right this minute. However, the logical person has to realize
how important those same aliens are to filling the state's excise tax coffers
each year. Excise taxes paid by ?illegals' were accounting for up 60.5 million
in state tax alone (63). In retrospect, it hardly seems right to say that
illegal immigrants are not paying their fair tax share for their health needs.
It also isn't fair that "U.S. businesses need Mexican workers for low-paying
jobs, but don't want them to have access to heath care while they are here"
(Hudson 37).
Another economically based reason, that proponents of 187-like
legislation have made, is that Texans will save money by denying non-emergency
care to illegal aliens. Without close scrutiny, this seems to be a claim to make
the pocket book happy. After all, we would still allow the ?aliens' the right
to life saving treatments, but we would also save a bundle by cutting the little
visits to the doctor for fevers, colds, and sprained ankles. What Texans have to
ask, though, is how do we save money when we deny a forty-five dollar visit to
the doctor for strep throat, but allow a twenty thousand dollar visit to
intensive care when that ?alien' develops scarlet fever from the strep infection
(Cowley 53). It would have been much more cost-effective to have provided direct
care services up front, and California quickly found this to be true. Premature
babies cost San Diego more than $500, 000 dollars. Complications from
pregnancies added an additional $112,000 to the bill (Serb 63). According to the
claims made, these types of costs should have disappeared after #187 was passed.
The illegal immigrants were supposed to return to Mexico for their pre-natal
care, but the evidence proves they didn't. Instead, the illegal mothers received
no pre-natal care, and had emergencies that cost the state even more money.
There are more problems with Proposition 187-like proposals than just
economic problems. Texans must be aware of the moral and ethical problems we
would create if we supported a similar plan for Texas. For instance, Catholic
Bishop John Ricard points out that if Texans explicitly set out to identify all
illegal aliens, and stop them from receiving care, we are likely to have a
discriminatory situation. Every American with tan skin and a name ending in "z"
is likely to be perceived as potential illegal immigrants ("Health" 248). The
National Christian Coalition also points out that "to measure national health
care decisions more by economic than moral or compassionate standards is
appalling" (248). But even more appalling is what we are asking our nation's
doctors to do. By requiring that physicians report every immigrant without
documentation, and to refuse them treatment when ill, we are boldly demanding
that they violate their sacred Hippocratic oath. Care providers have based their
professions on helping any person in need since the time of the ancient Greeks.
In true spirit doctors should know no boundaries between two lands. In fact, why
should they refuse to give treatment because a person happens to be on this side
of the Rio Grande