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Health Care for Immigrants

August 19, 1994

As a physician at the Edward Roybal Health Center in East Los Angeles, I'm worried about Proposition 187 because it poses a serious threat to the health and safety of my patients: mostly very poor, elderly immigrants from Mexico who suffer a variety of chronic illnesses. Simply stated, Proposition 187 puts their lives on the line, because without the care that we provide at Roybal (and other publicly supported facilities) there will be nowhere else for patients such as mine to go.

That's why I'm going all-out to help defeat this evil initiative which aims to sacrifice my patients, purportedly in exchange for saving taxpayers maybe a few precious pieces of gold.

Should any of my patients die as a consequence of 187's passage, voters will be unable to escape the shame and the blame--for they are being forewarned.

For me, there's even more to the initiative than the struggle to save my patients--as if that shouldn't suffice. Personal integrity and honor are at stake too. It has to do with Proposition 187's provisions that health workers have to participate in checking on the immigrant status of patients. It's not a matter of merely standing by and watching my patients' health deteriorate. I'm also to be both inquisitioner and executioner.

No way that's going to happen! Bad enough memories from a childhood in World War II--of watching helplessly as a friend of Japanese descent was carried away to a concentration camp. This time around "I will refuse to participate in any mechanism designed to determine the immigration status of our patients"--the pledge that I and some of my co-workers already have signed. Those of us traditionally engaged in life-rendering missions are not about to become agents of harm against the very people we serve.

I can only speak for myself and don't know which way the vote will go on this hateful initiative, but I do remember the following lesson, from the history of World War II, that offers some hope. Adolf Hitler had just conquered Denmark and had ordered all Jews to wear the star of David on their clothes to set them apart from other Danes. Sensing what was at stake, the king of Denmark appeared in public wearing the star of David. Soon everyone was following his example. Thus were Danish Jews saved from the inferno that Hitler had prepared for them.

JACK KENT MD

Huntington Beach

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