It started Wednesday when I read a shocking article in the New York Times about an undocumented immigrant who suffers from a life threatening kidney disease and requires dialysis. Because of a bizarre legal anomaly the government will cover the cost of his dialysis—$75,000 a year—but not the cost of a kidney transplant—$100,000—which would make the dialysis unnecessary and save hundreds of thousands of dollars over time.
The article quoted Rep. Dana T. Rohrabacher, Republican of California, who opposes giving any medical aide to undocumented immigrants. While I believe his position is extreme, indeed self-defeating, Rohrabacher is obviously entitled to his view. But what was appalling was the mean spiritedness with which he expressed it. “If they’re dead” Rohrabacher said, “I don’t have an objection to their organs being used.” He added, “If they’re alive, they shouldn’t be here no matter what.”
Was the Congressman really saying that the only worthwhile illegal immigrant is a dead one? I certainly hope not, but given the ugly language of the anti-immigrant restrictionists including, sadly, some members of Congress, it wouldn’t surprise me.
I tried to put the whole thing out of my mind. But later that evening, while catching up on my Twitter feed, the following tweet about Rohrabacher’s callous comment popped up from America’s Voice.
Award 4 the most heartless statement in the face of human suffering 2 @DanaRohrabacher http://bit.ly/vi4FjV
I realized I wasn’t alone. Others were shocked by the cold-bloodedness of Rohrabacher’s remark. But it was late at night, so I just retweeted the AV’s tweet and went to bed. I slept well, figuring the issue of Rohrabacher’s insensitivity in the face of human affliction had been settled on the social network.
I was wrong.
When I awoke the next morning I discovered that just after midnight Rohrabacher had sent me the following tweet:
glad benevolent people like U willing to reduce health&ed benefits to your own families for illegals rather than tax us
Then, about an hour later, he tweeted again,
U mean our own people suffering because not enough to care for them…or illegals on whom u’d spend our limited $?
His tweets included a nice picture of Rohrabacher leaning against a railing in front of a bay. “Well”, I thought, “at least he’s more discrete than Anthony Weiner.” In any event, I immediately tweeted Rohrabacher back, hoping to favorably inform his views on immigration and impress upon him that he should become an advocate for comprehensive reform. But it’s tough to do that in 140 characters or less. So I tweeted:
I mean #immigration reform will create jobs and increase wages for #Americans, Y dont you understand that?
To which the Congressman tweeted back:
R U kidding? Permitting illegals to stay& work draws tens of millions more, bidding down wages, draining health&ed funds
At this point I figured Rohrabacher needed some facts and figures; something other than the half-baked restrictionist talking points he has apparently been reading. My return tweet referred him to a joint report published in early 2010 by the Immigration Policy Center and the Center for American Progress entitled Raising the Floor for American Workers which makes it crystal clear that immigration reform, including a pathway to lawful compliance for the millions of undocumented foreign nationals, will boost the economy to the benefit of all Americans:
W all due respect Congressman, ur wrong; CIR will add 1.7t to GDP, in tax rev; and 1m jobs; read IPC report
But Rohrabacher would have none of it—apparently not wanting the facts to get in the way of his views. He tweeted:
thanks 4 the respect, but if U believe that legalizing those here and drawing tens of millions more is good for US Ur dreaming
Dreaming? I guess I am. As are a lot of other people—including thousands of undocumented immigrant youth who long to give back to the only country they know and have struggled against all odds to enrich. So I tweeted,
Mabye I’m dreaming–like many others–but the current situation is a nightmare; America needs solutions not empty talk.
But the Congressman, determined to have the last tweet, responded,
if Ur so-called solution is legalizing the status of illegals give me empty talk, Ur solution will bring more & make it worse
I’m not sure what to make of my ongoing twitter conversation with Congressman Rohrabacher. Sure, it’s tempting write him off as a heartless old Grinch. But I’m not going to do that. After all, this is the holiday season, a time of reflection, renewal, and goodwill towards others. I want to believe that if Rohrabacher allows himself to see the injustice and pain caused by America’s broken immigration system then his heart, like the mean old Grinch’s, just might grow three full sizes. Maybe then he won’t long to steal Christmas from the most vulnerable among us.
In the meantime I’m going to go check my Twitter feed. Who knows? Maybe Ebenezer Scrooge is following me.