Posted on August 12, 2004

Schaefer Says Illegals Drain Health System

Robert Redding Jr., Washington Times, Aug. 12

Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer said yesterday that illegal aliens drain health care resources — his second recent criticism about immigration.

During a Board of Public Works meeting in Annapolis, Mr. Schaefer asked state health Secretary Nelson J. Sabatini how much the state spends on health care for illegal immigrants.

When told that the figure is about $40 million, Mr. Schaefer said: “Our own people, that is legitimate Americans, cannot get health care.”

He added that it would be a “tragedy” if the country becomes bilingual — English and Spanish speaking.

Mr. Schaefer said he supports legal immigration but complained that some people who are not citizens do not have “green cards” — which permit permanent residency — and will not ask for one.

After an encounter in May with a McDonald’s employee who had trouble understanding his order, Mr. Schaefer complained that foreigners are not learning to “speak the language.”

The 82-year-old former governor was criticized for his comments, including the statement that non-English speaking residents should become “Americanized.”

Delegate Victor R. Ramirez, a Prince George’s Democrat, called Mr. Schaefer’s comments “inappropriate” and said, “I respect him as a politician, but I think the statements were way out of line.”

Roberto Allen, president of the Baltimore Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, agreed.

“It just seems like it’s a counterproductive kind of commentary,” he said.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, was the among the first to defend Mr. Schaefer, his political ally.

He said immigrants should assimilate into the U.S. culture and that multiculturalism was “bunk” and “crap.”

Mr. Ehrlich apologized for using the word crap but said bunk was a benign term.

Luis Borunda, chairman of the Hispanic Republicans of Maryland, the official outreach arm for the party, said Mr. Ehrlich expressed “what needed to be said.”

Mr. Ramirez said yesterday that he was not surprised by Mr. Schaefer’s most recent comments.

“I think he is free to speak his mind,” he said.

Still, Mr. Schaefer should remember that the American lexicon has for hundreds of years included terms of Spanish origin, including the words Arizona, Colorado and Nevada, Mr. Ramirez said.

“You have had two languages that have been spoken in this country for a long time,” he said.

He declined to comment on the $40 million expenditure because he did not know whether the number was accurate.

The amount the state spends on health care for illegal aliens could be closer to $100 million, said Delegate Pat McDonough, Baltimore County Republican.

Mr. McDonough was unsuccessful in passing a bill during the 2004 General Assembly that called for a study to learn exactly how much illegal aliens are costing the state in health care.

“We the citizens of Maryland are subsidizing illegal aliens’ health care costs when many of our own people cannot afford health care for themselves,” Mr. McDonough said yesterday. “In other words, we are rewarding law breakers and punishing law-abiding citizens.”