Friday, June 18, 2010

There Arizona goes again

There Arizona goes again…

In Arizona, they are proposing a law that would deny birth certificates to children born of parents that are in the country illegally. This is an indirect assault on the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States. It doesn’t specifically deny citizenship, but does prevent a birth certificate from being issued that would be needed to prove that someone was born in the country.

When Arizona passed the last illegal immigration law, directing law enforcement to determine the citizenship of people that are in custody (as it was amended), it brought plenty of attention to the state from both sides of the argument. This one is sure to make things much more complicated for everyone from the hospital that births the child to the federal government.

But, it should still not change anything as far as a child being granted citizenship.

Right now, there are two ways to gain citizenship; you are born here or you are granted citizenship through application. Many feel that just because a child is born in the United States while the mother is in the country illegally, the child should not be given automatic citizenship. But, the Fourteenth Amendment states that children born in the United States are citizens. It states, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” Because a birth certificate will not be issued doesn’t mean the child is not born here. (for more details about why the Fourteenth Amendment was created see blog post, “Citizenship as Birth Right”)

As was the position of the Responsible Community when the previously law was enacted, so it is with this one. The responsibility of citizenship and immigration rest with the federal government. It was given to the national government by the Fourteenth amendment. The lawmakers in Arizona are either making a cheap political statement on the backs of children or are attempting to force the country to address the immigration issue in America. Seems that it is a little of both.

As a country, we may decide to make some changes in the way citizenship is granted. That would take a change in the Fourteenth amendment, or, perhaps a challenge to the interpretation of the amendment by the Supreme Court But, until then, birthright citizenship is there for everyone born in the country.

As a nation of immigrants, we should not change what has made us strong.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Health care for autistic children is needed now!

In Michigan, families with autistic children are considering suing health insurance companies to force them to provide care for their children. Insurance companies give many reasons why they do not cover these deserving children, but it is really about costs. In this market economy, if a company can offer less expensive premiums by excluding coverage of individuals with rare disorders, the company will gain an advantage in the market. Even though it will cost everyone a few more dollars, insurance companies should be forced to cover them.

It is reported that families lose their homes, retirement funds, declare bankruptcy and even have to give up jobs to take care of their children. All of those homes that are lost lowers the value of other homes. The lose of the retirement funds means there is less money for investment, savings and people have to work longer into their lives, keeping jobs from the young. Each dollar that is lost in bankruptcy by companies must be made up by raising the cost of everything. This raises the cost of living for all of us. It could be more than the few dollars more in premiums that insurance companies would need to charge to cover their cost for the additional coverage.

But it is more than money that we lose. It is a bit of our own humanity and community. We didn’t gather in communities at the beginning so that we could continue on just as we still lived as individuals in the wild. Communities were formed so that everyone could share in many of the responsibilities that individuals have in common. As the community expects each individual to live up to their own responsibility so each individual expects the community to do its part. To intentionally leaving out even one individual from the full benefits of the community is a violation of that pact.

Insurance is part of the market’s answer to help the community work. It is a way of sharing the responsibility for many of the dangers and risks that all of us will come across. For the community to continue to allow insurance companies to exclude families with children that have autism is to keep them from receiving the full benefit of the community. This violation of the pact between the individual and the community needs to be corrected.

This should not be fought out in the courts. It will be time consuming and cost even more money that could be used for the benefit of the families that are in need. It will take many years to work through a solution. In the mean time, the community will prevent many more children from receiving the care and treatment they need.

The state legislature needs to mandate that insurance companies provide the coverage that these children need – now.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Freedom of speech

Three young men are being sent to prison and a long time White House reporter is being forced to resign. In both cases, freedom of speech is an issue (as far as the Responsible Community is concerned – see author’s note at the end) but only one was wrong.

What is the difference?

Three men were sentenced to various combinations of jail, drug rehab program and community service by Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Shalina D. Kumar for burning a cross near the home of a African American family. The incident happen last August in Independence Township. All three pleaded guilty or no contest to the various crimes they were accused of committing. Judge Kumar said in court during the sentencing, “I think you should be ashamed and embarrassed for yourselves.” The judge in this case made a good decision and her sentencing statement expressed what should be the feelings and concerns of the entire community.

On a national stage, Helen Thomas, the long time White House reporter, resigned under pressure from her position with the Hearst organization after nearly 50 years because she said that the, “Jews should get out of Palestine.” She said it at a Jewish heritage month celebration after being asked her opinion by a rabbi. It does seem to be a reckless place to make such a statement. But, she must have felt safe to make the statement or she wasn’t thinking at all. Since she did resign, which the word “resign” is often a code word for being asked to leave, she saved a lot of trouble for everyone involved. But, she did have the right to make the statement and the community should be supporting her right to make any statement when it is not part of her reporting responsibilities.

The three men were wrong. It went well beyond a simple expression of an opinion. Everyone has the right to say what is on their mind, even if, as in this case, it is a discussing expression of racism. But, they crossed the line of merely expressing an opinion when they took action and burnt the cross near the family’s home. Action they claimed was not meant to express a racial opinion. But, there are few things that are more clearly racial than a burning cross in this culture with its history of bigotry. The action changed the expression of an opinion to an intimidating act. No one should face any intimidating act without a harsh, justified response from the community.

As for Helen Thomas, her statements were insensitive, expressed grave misunderstanding of the situation in the Middle East and clearly stated a perverse view of reality. If she had continued on as a White House reporter, every reader should be keenly aware of her position on the trouble in that troubled land. But, her opinion was merely an expression with no action suggested. In this country, based on the freedoms we enjoy, the community should support her right to express herself.

On a side note, the reaction to the comments Thomas made outside of her professional duties may place a damper on others expressing their opinions in similar situations. This means the community will know less about the background opinions of others that are reporting the news. An open environment is much better than the alternative.

As a community, we must support freedom of speech everywhere. But, we must insure that those that are the target of speech aren’t intimidated nor come to any harm.

[Author’s note: It is obvious that the opinions expressed on the Responsible Community blog are not of a legal nature. They are more of a common sense, practical approach to community that works at sharing the responsibility between the individual and the community.]