Sunday, August 17, 2008

border medicine

A few weeks ago, I had a new patient in my office for a routine sick visit. I heard a significant murmur that was worrisome to me. When I questioned her mother about it, if it had ever been evaluated before, she said she knew nothing of a murmur in her daughter. The rest of her exam was normal, except that she was a bit small for her age, but both her parents are somewhat short. After doing a chest xray and ECG, I decided to send her to see a pediatric cardiologist for further evaluation. No problem, I thought, since UNM conducts an outreach clinic only 75 miles south of here once or twice a month. I was all set to have this appointment made, when I remembered that I needed to ask the family if they could travel south. You see, there is a border patrol check point between my office and Las Cruces. I don't keep track of which of my patients and/or families are here illegally, but at times like this, I have to be careful. Needless to say, this family did not want to travel south; they would rather travel twice the distance north to avoid the check point. Unfortunately, that isn't always safe either as there is a border patrol station north of as well, although it is only open on rare occasions. Happily, on this occasion, they were able to drive to Albuquerque and back without incident.

What a situation for this family to be in!! Both parents work, and their children go to school and do well in their classes; they are contributing members of society and the economy. But they live in constant fear of being deported and separated from their children who are all legal citizens. Yet, the parents did enter the country illegally, breaking the law. And so, some might say, they deserve to live like this, constantly watching their backs. I have very mixed feelings about the whole immigration issue, and, living here, it is something that is frequently on my mind. There isn't an easy, pretty solution. We rely heavily on this population for the work that they do. Mexico relies on the enormous amounts of money these workers send back home. Our economies are intertwined beyond repair. Will building a wall from California to Texas fix the problem? Doubtful. Do we offer citizenship to all immigrants who have already come here and are working? Not likely to happen. Maybe the official guest worker program that Bush suggested would work, although it too is very complicated, expensive, and unlikely to be adhered to. I really don't know. I do know that Mexico is an incredible country with many natural resources, a strong tourism industry, and a strong textile industry. Perhaps Mexico will continue to try to clean up it's house so that it is a more desirable place for it's citizens to live, so that they will not be willing to undertake the incredible risk and often the incredible financial cost to cross their northern border seeking a better life. We don't see Canadians crossing illegally, do we?

1 comment:

jackiealdridge said...

They will keep coming as long as they can make more money here than there. Remember, illegals are usually unskilled but they are often paid under the table (and don't have to pay taxes). When they buy homes here, they often remodel them to be out of code and zoning and make more money by renting out the new space to other illegals. And they usually have their own medical and pharmaceutical system, aside from always having the right to return to Mexico where medical care is an entitlement and all citizens can visit hospitals and doctors. (Unlike the U.S.)
Mexico does have it's act together, it's just not as rich a country, not as industrialized, and we are seeing their poorest and most rural citizens.