I am a born and bred Texas girl. I was raised in a state with, I’m certain, one of the highest populations of Hispanic immigrants, both illegal and legal. Those who know me well have probably heard me speak more than once about the deep love and respect I have for the religiously devout and hard working culture of these amazing people I’ve seen sweating in kitchens, in fields, and quite frankly, breaking their backs to build some of the mansions that “we” live in, over all the young years of my life. I have passed street corners where groups of men stood on Friday evenings waiting for buses that would carry them many hours across the border to their homes and families, where they would leave behind most of the week’s wages when they took a bus on Sunday to ride all the way back to a week’s worth of more hard work. If you ever want to know what I know of immigrants, google Robert Earl Keen’s “Mariano” and listen to every lyric closely. It is a beautiful, inspiring, humbling thing.
But… and yes, there’s a BUT coming….
I have also worked for not one, but two, international outsourcing companies. One of them recruited nurses and invested relatively large sums on money in educated nurses from all over the world to bring them to the states to meet our country’s healthcare needs. The ironic thing? The ironic thing is that one of the reasons we have such a need for nurses is that we have an illegal immigration problem. I worked for some highly skilled former nurses while employed at that company and I had a really interesting conversation with one of them one day.
“Why aren’t you a nurse anymore?” I wanted to know.
The answer was a bit long and complicated. There actually was no one answer, but somewhere in the many reasons was the explanation that working in healthcare, in a hospital, particularly in an emergency setting, had gotten hard. It had gotten TOO hard. It was too hard to provide a level of care that most dedicated doctors and nurses want to provide.
Hospitals were understaffed and over-burdened and one of the reasons, particularly in the western part of the country where this kind and educated woman had worked, was that the emergency rooms were overrun with illegals who had no money and no healthcare. Illegals were walking into emergency rooms with common colds and they were walking into emergency rooms in labor, because at the end of the day, the emergency room cannot turn them away. They had no money, no healthcare, and no social security numbers to track them down when they didn’t pay. They had nothing. They were overwhelming emergency rooms, quality of care was suffering and nurses and doctors….well, they quit.
We were left needing to recruit immigrants to come here to solve our healthcare shortages on contracts that didn’t pay them as much as their US counter parts earned. In turn, hospitals were opting to hire even more immigrant nurses at lower wages and invest more time in training them in our practices and laws, making even less room for US nurses to be hired at ever higher wages that reflected the high demand. It’s a cycle like that.
I ramble, but I do have a point….
My point is that there is no one who will speak more passionately about the love and respect she has for the people she saw crossing the border to better their families’ lives than I do, BUT we have an illegal immigration problem. It is a problem that goes far deeper than stats on criminal versus non-criminal behavior of illegals. It is a problem that runs deeper than discussions of whether or not citizens want to perform the jobs that many illegals perform for the wages they are willing to perform them. It does effect our wages. It also impacts education and healthcare. It costs us money at every turn. Illegal immigration causes problems and saying so does not make me, or anyone else, a racist. It does not mean that we don’t appreciate our American roots as a melting pot. It does not mean that we don’t know our history or that we don’t recognize all people as equal or appreciate another person’s desire to have a better life. It simply means that we are aware of the impact to our own lives and don’t find ignoring it to be the solution.
I’m not here to say that I have a solution to our illegal immigration issues. If I had the solution, I’d be running for office. I AM here to say that believing that we NEED a solution does NOT make me a racist, and claiming that it does makes the person saying so far more ignorant than I am.