Congressman Griffith's Weekly E-Newsletter 9.30.19

Should Illegal Immigrants Be Placed Ahead of Veterans?

Monday, September 30, 2019 | Kevin Baird (202-225-3861)

Rural areas like ours face unique challenges in health care. Providers struggle to stay open and to attract new doctors, nurses, and other personnel.

I am looking forward to being in Lee County on October 8 for the ribbon-cutting of an urgent care center. This facility is the first step toward opening a new Lee County hospital next year. This is an important step forward since Lee County’s old hospital closed in 2013, and getting to this point has been no easy task. It required the tireless and sustained advocacy of people in the community and their local elected members of the General Assembly.

Later in the process, my office and the offices of our two senators stand ready to advocate for the new hospital’s inclusion in Federal programs.

Further, in Washington, D.C., I have advocated for rural health care, as well as better care for all Americans. Unfortunately, the House Democrat majority recently decided instead to prioritize health care for illegal immigrants.

On September 26, they passed H.R. 3525. This bill requires the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which has the mission of keeping our country safe from threats both natural and manmade, to perform new medical assignments without providing more funding to undertake these added burdens unconnected with DHS’ mission.

DHS is required to set up an interoperable electronic health records (EHR) system within 90 days to house the medical records of illegal immigrants.

By comparison, Veterans Administration (VA) facilities in Virginia will not have an EHR system until 2024 and the transition for VA facilities nationwide will not be completed until 2027.

The Department of Defense will not have an EHR system for active-duty service members for five years.

In fact, the Coast Guard, which is a DHS agency, still uses paper medical records because the system it spent seven years building does not work.

Yet somehow the Democrats think it makes sense to pass a bill requiring DHS to establish an EHR database for illegal aliens in 90 days.

Another mandate imposed but unfunded by H.R. 3525 is for DHS to research innovative ways to conduct medical screenings on illegal immigrants. As House Homeland Security Committee Ranking Member Mike Rogers (R-AL) noted during floor debate, “DHS conducts thousands of medical screenings on migrants on a daily basis. Finding new ways to deliver health screenings more efficiently could save time and money, but researching innovations in health care delivery is NOT the mission of DHS.”

We should treat illegal immigrants taken into custody humanely and provide for their immediate medical needs, but H.R. 3525 and similar Democrat legislation puts their interests in improving health care before those of American citizens.

House Republicans offered language simply changing the bill so that DHS would not have to implement the EHR system before the VA has completely deployed its system. I think most people would agree that the men and women who serve and sacrifice for us deserve this commitment from their government.

Nevertheless, Democrats rejected this simple amendment.

At the same time, they are handicapping the Trump Administration’s lawful attempts to secure the border and reduce the number of illegal border crossings.

A day after passing H.R. 3525, the House again passed a resolution terminating the national emergency President Trump declared at the southern border, which allowed him to deploy more resources to counter the crisis. The law providing for national emergencies may give too much authority to the executive branch, but it is difficult to argue that President Trump is misusing this flexibility given him by Congress.

President Trump will certainly veto the legislation ending the national emergency, just as he did six months ago, but people in Central America contemplating the long and dangerous trek to the border are nevertheless receiving a strong message from House Democrats: “It’s okay, come to the U.S. illegally.”

Added to that, many Democrat candidates for president have indicated they would, if elected, give government-provided health care to all illegal immigrants.

Perhaps Southwest Virginia will receive more attention if we decide to secede from the Union. Perhaps we can form the independent nation of Franklin, just as the State of Franklin was contemplated in the era of the Revolution, and then cross the border back into the United States. Then Washington Democrats may pay attention to the rural health care needs of American citizens.

Of course, my proposal is not serious. But then, neither is the legislation Speaker Pelosi and her colleagues in the House majority have been advancing.

If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405, my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671, or my Washington office at 202-225-3861. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.

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