The emergency room in the county hospital, which
sees a large percentage of uninsured and indigent
patients, was in its usual frenetic state when
I watched a nurse bring in two new patients. They
were an elderly couple who had just arrived from
India. Both carried with them several manila envelopes
filled with details of their medical history.
Each complained of having chest pain. The pain
was no different from the "angina" they'd
been suffering for years. In fact, their medical
records from India indicated that they both had
been diagnosed as having severe coronary artery
disease. They both were on multiple heart medications.
But it was obvious that what they needed was more
than medication. Their best chance to become pain
free and reduce their risk of heart attack was
"heart surgery," which usually involves
"bypass" or "angioplasty."
That was what they needed and that was what they
had come to the U.S. to get.
I asked the resident physician who had seen
them whether he thought they'd eventually get
"Sure," he said, "If they know
how to play the system."
As many as 30% of the heart surgeries performed
at Harbor/UCLA Medical Center are performed on
non-citizens. Some are illegal aliens and some
are foreign visitors with legal visas. Ironically,
in a bizarre Catch-22, the usual policy is that
non-emergency cardiac surgery will not be performed
on aliens with travel visas, but those who have
no legal status but are nevertheless residing
in the U.S. are eligible. So, here's how to play
the system. If you have severe heart disease and
need a bypass, you can fly in from some Third
World country, drive direct to a county facility,
and ask for one. Just don't tell them you have
a visa. Tell them you're an illegal alien living
Millions of people come to the United States
every year. Some come on 747's to survive heart
disease, and some come on inner tubes across dangerous
Caribbean waters for simply a better life. While
the world's politicians now perceive global over-population
to be a crisis issue, it is immigration that is
creating America's population crisis.
In Cairo several years ago, the "International
Conference on Population and Development"
was busy trying to hammer out policy to control
over-population. Regardless of their final conclusions,
unless Armageddon occurs, world population is
still predicted to nearly double to about 10 billion
by the middle of this century. Unless draconian
birth control measures are introduced worldwide,
just as inevitably, the fertility rates in the
"have-not" countries will continue to
far exceed those of the "haves." While
the average number of births per woman in the
U.S. is less than 2, the number per woman in much
of Africa, Latin America, and other Third World
countries ranges from 4 to 7. Although we can
hope that advancing technology will keep pace
with the needs of a growing population for food,
shelter and social services, it is likely that
in many regions of the world the only solution
for an unsatisfied expanding population will be
to emigrate elsewhere. It is this emigration that
is far more consequential to U.S. population growth
than our ongoing growth with the two child family.
The current U.S. population is about 300 million.
The Census Bureau projects our population to increase
to half a billion by 2050. Of that anticipated
21st century growth, nearly 90 percent will be
post Year-2000 immigrants and their descendants.
I don't mean to infer that we should simply
slam shut our doors. But with legal immigration
numbering about one million yearly and illegal
immigration numbering millions more, we need to
guard those doors more closely.
Striving for a smaller population would probably
make it easier for us to deal with all the social,
environmental, and resource problems that confront
Today if you come here from a country with too
much population or, more pertinent, too few resources,
all you have to say is, "my heart hurts,"
and we'll take care of all your needs - for medical
care, for food, for shelter, for education. That
ought not to continue. As we try to convince other
nations to control their over-population, we should
not forget that we our becoming over-populated
too, not due to our birthrate but due to immigration.
Our own social fabric is torn. And it's unlikely
to be repaired by inviting more people to wear