Friday, February 01, 2008

Helping Immigrants

I once heard a great interview with historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. by Chris Lydon, a former WBUR public radio broadcaster. It was on the occasion of the publication of his last book, and Chris asked him what was the most important lesson he had learned from studying American history. It was something like this: "Never underestimate the tendency of the American public to become xenophobic."

I thought this was a striking statement. It came without pause or hesitation and so was clearly "top of mind" for Schlesinger. And, as we have watched political debates about immigration and immigrants during the past Congressional session and now during the Presidential primaries, we see it raised over and over.

There is a group in this state called the Massachusetts Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) that provides information, support to immigrants, and political advocacy in support of the desire of people from around the world to have a chance to live the American Dream. A few weeks ago, a number of us joined to hear from Senator Kennedy and thank him for his efforts on behalf of this cause. We also heard from a young mother who described events that took place during an immigant raid in New Bedford last year. As Senator Kennedy remarked, there were things that happened in that raid that one could not have believed possible in this country.

I don't often use this blog to ask your support for political causes, but I do so now and hope you join many of us to help this organization.


Anonymous said...

Some bad stuff going on here in Va. too re immigrants. People need to remember, aside from the American Dream, that the lack of assimilation in Europe is what is helping drive terrorism among the muslim population. People who feel like they (and more important, their children) are forever going to be outsiders have no sense of shared ownership and thus no loyalty. Good for you for speaking out on a touchy subject.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect, in the rest of the national healthcare community outside New England, "top of mind" for Paul Levy is probably considered more relevant and authoritive than something bieng "top of mind" for Arthur Schlesinger Jr. Whether it is fair or accurate to label as xenophobic, the entire breadth and depth of opinion against illegal immigration in the current debate, is in my opinion, still highly debatable. I have no doubt that the details of the New Bedford inicident to which you refer, were no less lamentable than were the details of the infamous Elian Gonzales "raid". If you honestly believe the absolutely necessary national debate on healthcare access and financing can be advanced by conflating it with the politics of the current immigration issue, then more power to you. However, I for one, would prefer your opinion leadership on healthcare reform not be compromised by your opinion on immigration reform. Be this as it may, I think your voice and your perspective on the issues daunting hospital administration is refreshing and welcome. I respect and value what you offer in this respect. Keep it at that is friendly advice from the Midwest. Sincerely, Joseph Kirchner

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Joseph. Of course, I disagree (but you already know that.) I don't think my opinion on one matter or the other is compromised by my opinion on another. People are free to like my opinion on issue issue but not on another.

While I actually think the discussion on immigration is relevant to health care in several respects, that is not why I included this post. I included it because I use this forum for a variety of topics that are interesting or important to me.