-By Alec Pruchnicki, MD
“I assure you that when you haven’t done it for one of the least of these, you haven’t done it for me.” Matthew 25:44-45
It’s odd for an atheist like me quoting Jesus, but the behavior of Governor Greg Abbott and the other Republicans in their treatment of immigrants is extreme, and help from any direction is needed. (“NYC Makes Room for South American Migrants” Westview News 9/2022) This publicity stunt of sending undocumented immigrants or those seeking asylum to other states might be irritating for the states, including New York, but might actually be better for immigrants since access to medical care in Texas is terrible.
Abbott and his accomplices in the legislature don’t care if their own citizens live or die. That isn’t just a figure of speech, but a simple fact. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF.org) Texas is the state with the highest rate of people without health insurance in the country, at over 17%. Yet they have refused to expand Medicaid coverage, which is easily available from the Affordable Care Act.
Undermining and dragging their feet on precautions has given them a COVID death rate of 103/100,000, compared to 71/100,000 in New York, even though Texas exposure came later in the pandemic when more was known. The easy availability of guns, sometimes with loosening of gun laws even after mass shootings, is another lethal action of that state. The recent decision striking down of abortion rights is enforced in Texas with a rule that says if there is a heartbeat then no abortion can occur even if the fetus is nonviable and its deterioration in the womb can cause the mother to get septic and die.
These tactics of rejecting Medicaid expansion, poor COVID performance, loose gun laws and cruel anti-abortion rules, superimposed on poor socio-economic conditions is not limited to Texas. It is common to many states of The Old Confederacy, which why they are still referred to as “The Stroke Belt” in medical slang.
But, why should the weaknesses of those states be remedied by the Free States up North? We are not frightened by immigrants of whatever type, and it’s no accident that the Statue of Liberty is in the harbor of New York City and not Galveston (OK maybe it’s in the harbor of Jersey City, but you get the idea).
Before COVID it was common for states with high taxes to send more money to the Federal treasury than we received back. The low tax states, like Texas and others, took more than they contributed. These welfare states in the South were carried by the high tax states (NY, NJ, Conn) so for us to make up for the deficiencies of other states is not new. Federal rescue money paid for by deficits has given every state in the country more than it contributes, but this won’t last forever.
Finally, there are the anecdotal stories of volunteers in NY, Martha’s Vineyard and other places stepping forward to help these refugees from Texas. The NY Times even had an article on how one of these displaced people is doing better working in NYC than living in Texas. Most people have a basic instinct to help others in distress. This is one of the characteristics that distinguishes human beings from Republicans.
I started with a biblical reference and I’ll end with one. If the Christians are right and there is an afterlife, maybe helping “…the least of these…” will increase our chances of getting into heaven, while Greg Abbott and his colleagues will spend eternity in a place that’s a lot hotter than Texas.