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August 12, 2006

TN: Facts Not Easy To Verify In Hearing On Immigration; Complaints By Residents Don't Match Statistics

Here is an article from the Atlanta Journal;By Tom Baxter

"Brentwood, Tenn. --- Amid criticism that the proceeding was politically motivated, a House field hearing chaired by Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.) tried Thursday to square anecdotal evidence about the burden illegal immigration puts on hospitals with hard numbers from health care officials.

The field hearing was one of 21 scheduled during the August congressional recess by House members who back the tough, law enforcement-oriented approach to illegal immigration embodied in their chamber's bill, passed last December.

Critics, including immigrant advocates who held a news conference before the hearing, charge that the goal of the hearings is to scuttle the Senate version of the bill, passed this spring and backed by President Bush. While stepping up enforcement, it would also create a guest worker program and provide a route to citizenship for illegal immigants --- provisions absent from the House bill.

Two more hearings will be held next week, in Dalton and Gainesville, whose Latino populations are among the highest in Georgia.

Brentwood, the scene of Thursday's hearing, is a suburb of Nashville, which has seen its Hispanic immigrant population explode in the past decade. The hearing brought together Republican state legislators and hospital and health care officials to talk about the costs incurred by uninsured illegal immigrants who show up in emergency rooms requiring care.

The state's struggling TennCare system --- Tennessee's version of Medicaid --- has been dramatically scaled back, with some 300,000 Tennesseans taken off the roles in an effort to make it solvent. State Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) testified that "when illegal immigrants continually fill our emergency rooms and state clinics, people want to know why their neighbors and relatives don't have greater access to health care."

But it proved difficult to put hard numbers on how great a burden illegal immigrants place on the system.

TennCare Deputy Commission Darin Gordon testified that under federal law, his program must pay for one-time emergency care. But he said this requirement was an "extremely small" part of a program that covers 1.2 million people in the state, and that illegal immigrants represented a small faction of that proportion: 62 last month, at a cost of $1.7 million".

Posted by VisaLawyer at August 12, 2006 06:38 PM

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