Paying for anchors

Supporters of illegal immigration and the effort to create a bilingual America might argue that not all of the Spanish-speaking population of California was born in Mexico, and they would be correct. There are some residents of California who were born in the United States who do not speak English. A large percent of these children are the sons and daughters of illegal immigrants who were born on American soil but not within the American culture. Each year, California, through its Medi-Cal program, spends about $400 million paying for the delivery of babies of women who are illegal immigrants (Larrubia, 2007).

Each year, about 100,000 illegal immigrant women have their babies delivered at no cost to them through the Medi-Cal program (Larrubia, 2007). These children are referred to as “anchor babies” because they create a legal link between their parents and the United States. Under current U. S. law, any child born in the United States, regardless of the citizenship status of his or her parents, is a citizen of the United States. Anchor babies now account for about 20% of all of the babies born in California (Larrubia, 2007). Anchor babies represent another example of the hidden costs of medical care for illegal aliens.

In addition to the $400 million that California spends to have these babies delivered (Larruibia, 2007), the state must also spend money to educate the child. There are other expenses as well. If a mother qualifies for Medi-Cal, then she and her children will probably also qualify for other forms of public assistance. While these additional expenses for education and social services are not specifically medical in nature, they are the result of a medical procedure that was provided by the state and will eventually include additional medical services.

This is an example of the ripple effect that illegal immigration has throughout the economy and especially within the health care industry. Additional expenses: The cost of non-acculturation Research on the cost of caring for illegal immigrants tends to focus on the cost of uncompensated medical care. While uncompensated care is the largest and probably the most easily quantified part of the overall burden of health care for illegal immigrants, it is only one part of the total cost.

Part of the expense of caring for the illegal immigrant population is their resistance to acculturation and the American culture. Unlike previous groups of immigration in which the majority of immigrants were processed at the border and documented by immigration officials, the current wave of immigrants is notorious for its largely undocumented status. Since 1995, the number of illegal immigrants coming to the United States has exceeded the number of people who have immigrated to the country legally (Passel, 2005, p. 6).

Work permits and other forms of legal documentation that were once seen as tickets to a better way of life in a new country are now viewed by many immigrants as inconvenient formalities that are best avoided. The ability of an immigrant – legal or otherwise – to work in the United States, once viewed as a privilege, is now viewed by many in the Latino community and their supporters as an entitlement, along with education for Mexican children and health care for undocumented workers and their families (Sacchetti, 2008).

Paradoxically, this expectation on the part of illegal immigrants and their supporters that the United States should provide jobs, education, and health care for those who could not obtain those necessities in their native Mexico and therefore came North is coupled with a romanticized view of Mexico that overlooks the poverty and misery from which the immigrants fled and insists on resisting American acculturation (Hanson, 2003).

This resistance to acculturation, including the refusal to learn the English language, is significant because it contributes to the burden that illegal immigrants place on institutions like hospitals and American society as a whole. The non-English speaking population in California is now so great that hospitals, clinics, and doctor offices must employ bilingual workers in order to communicate with their patients (Dower, 2005).

This practice discriminates against native-born Americans who do not speak a language other than English. Patient health information must be printed in Spanish, which drives up the cost of producing pamphlets and forms. Both of these outcomes place additional burdens on the health care system that would not exist if immigrants were required to learn to speak English.

The language barrier and the costs that are associated with it are examples of some of the often-overlooked burdens that illegal immigration places on the health care system. Freeing the system of the burden of providing medical services for the 2. 4 million illegal immigrants who were in California in 2004 and requiring legal immigrants to learn English as a condition of the legal status would reduce the need for at least a portion of the bilingual workforce. Summary of literature review

The existing literature supports both Hypothesis 1, that the cost to hospitals of treating illegal immigrants is higher than the cost of treating citizens and legal immigrants, and Hypothesis 2, that the treatment of illegal immigrants is depleting health care resources and leading to fewer health care resources for citizens and legal immigrants. Hypothesis 1 is supported by several findings in the existing body of research on illegal immigration. Chief among these findings is the link between immigration status, poverty, and insurance status. Illegal immigrants are overrepresented among uninsured people who live in the United States.

Several factors appear to be contribute to this correlation between illegal status and lack of insurance, the most noticeable of which is the working conditions of illegal immigrant workers, which are characterized by low wages and no employee benefits of any kind. The unwillingness of employers to provide health care benefits for their illegal immigrant employees, coupled with the low income of these workers, makes it difficult if not impossible for illegal immigrants to obtain health insurance that is not part of Medicaid or some other government program.

Despite the fact that California provides Medicaid benefits to illegal immigrants, the literature suggests that there are a number of illegal immigrants and their families who do not take advantage of these services, probably for fear of being identified as illegal and being arrested or deported. Medicaid is funded by tax dollars, so Medicaid recipients who are illegal immigrants are still placing a burden on the overall health care system.

However, Medicaid reimburses hospitals for treatment, thus reducing the expense to the hospital that provided care for the illegal immigrant. Hypothesis 2 is supported by research literature which indicates that the overflow of uninsured, non-paying illegal immigrants in emergency rooms and other care facilities has resulted in the closure of some facilities and has severely reduced the ability of other facilities to meet the emergency medical needs and other health care needs of all of the people who live in their service areas.

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