We Don't Want To Become "Immigration Police"

Published: Nov. 29, 2006 at 9:44 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 30, 2006 at 4:12 PM CST
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by Donna McCollum

Several get tough immigration bills are being filed by Texas lawmakers. It's a big change from five years ago when the state was putting the focus on meeting the needs of immigrants.  

Republican State Representative Leo Berman of Tyler is among those who believes serving illegal immigrants is costing too much. He wants to keep the babies of illegal immigrants from receiving state benefits like food stamps, health care, or public housing. He calls the children "anchor babies."

"An anchor baby comes in with about a half dozen other people, who are now eligible to stay and draw benefits. They are costing us three-and-a-half billion dollars a year, according to a study that I just went through," said Berman.

Health care providers call the idea mean-spirited.   A little one-year-old girl receives a well baby check. She is a U.S. citizen. Her mother is a legal immigrant.

The information doesn't really concern the East Texas Community Health Center. Immigrants, legal or not, know they can call freely for health care appointments, no questions asked. The center welcomes their visits by posting appointment numbers in Spanish. Community health care providers want to encourage all immigrants to receive proper health care. ETCH director Robin Moore said, "I resent the idea of becoming immigration police."

Tim Hayward, the director for Nacogdoches County Memorial Hospital, has a similar viewpoint. "It's a moral, ethical issue. You must take care of babies." The hospital administrator knows losing state benefits for the children of illegal immigrants would affect his bottom line. And, in his opinion, it wouldn't save money.

Hayward said, "It's the right thing to do for a mother. It's the right thing to do for a baby and, for society, that's much cheaper way to have them born healthy than to have it go nine months with no prenatal health care and have this really at-risk child."

The mother of the young child, Yhaaria Hernandez, addresses the issue from the child's viewpoint. "It's not their fault that their parents are illegal." Hernandez is a proud legal immigrant, but remains concerned for those who are still fighting for legal status. She's sure they would want to provide for their children, just as she's doing. 

Hernandez said, "I care about her health, you know. I want her to grow up healthy. It's the main thing."

Organized groups on both sides of the immigration debate vow to fight for their viewpoints. Democratic lawmakers and the American Civil Liberties Union oppose the proposals. The Center for Immigration Studies is pushing for strict immigration laws.