A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

Mass Senate Seeks a New Scapegoat

Mass Senate Seeks a New Scapegoat

May 25, 2010

[Our guest post below is by Frank Soults at our HCFA partner, Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. The MIRA Coalition will be holding a press conference on Wednesday, May 26, at 9:15 a.m. in State House Room 437, to oppose the anti-immigrant budget amendments]

Tomorrow, the State Senate of Massachusetts will consider no fewer than eight budget amendments that sacrifice taxpayers’ money and citizens rights’ in an effort to trap our culture’s latest hobgoblin, the undocumented immigrant who somehow defrauds the government while also hiding from it.

The centerpiece of this deluded quest is a revival of Representative Jeff Perry’s amendment to require all state agencies to check the immigration status of applicants for benefits. Logic would suggest that few if any undocumented immigrants would dare file those applications, and indeed, a study of a similar law passed in Colorado found that the state government spent over $2 million implementing an immigration-verification system – a system that saved the state absolutely no money whatsoever. Furthermore, this verification system could potentially deny benefits to citizens who lacked a driver’s license or state I.D. (a birth certificate and passport aren’t acceptable), including elderly residents seeking basic health-related services.

All of the eight amendments are likewise rife with potentially harmful side-effects to U.S.-born citizens. All of them certainly strain the fabric of one of the most diverse states in the union. And all of them usurp the authority of the federal government without providing any revenues to cover the costs of this usurpation. Even if one or two of the amendments are worthy of serious debate, serious debate is exactly what they will not receive in their current incarnation as budget amendments — legislating-by-budget is a classic tactic to avoid legislating by reason.

Given the way these amendments seek to demonize the undocumented and given the way they have been introduced, it’s difficult not to presume that they are grandstanding measures — a hair’s breadth from sheer demagoguery. In short, they are being introduced on the supposition that attacking a hobgoblin will play well to our general electorate. We can only hope that the electorate known as the Massachusetts State Senate sees through this ruse first, and it will send all of these amendments down to defeat.