California Travesty

Mark Cromer, Washington Times, August 27, 2007

Dr. Gene Rogers had a pretty good idea of what was coming when he saw his supervisor and a county security officer arrive at his office door. His supervisor was holding paperwork; the security guard was holding an empty box.

Dr. Gene Rogers knew what they had come to do, and why they were doing it. As the medical director for Sacramento County’s Indigent Services program for the better part of the past decade, Dr. Rogers has waged a long fight against the central California county’s practice of providing non-emergency medical care to illegal immigrants—a policy he says violates federal law and results in the poorest American citizens being denied the care they deserve.

That fight cost Dr. Rogers his job. In a two-sentence memo to Dr. Rogers, the county’s Health and Human Services director, Lynn Frank, informed him that he was fired, but thanked him for his services. No reason for his termination was offered, but then he didn’t really expect one. “Sacramento County knowingly violated state and federal laws, misappropriated taxpayer revenues and diverted funds designated for indigent citizens to pay for services delivered to illegal aliens,” Dr. Rogers said. “And they did so even as they cut the budget.”

Fired earlier this month, Dr. Rogers is the latest casualty on a frontline in the struggle over illegal immigration that’s often overshadowed: the battle that has simmered throughout government agencies. Many government employees remain silent in the face of what’s happening—fearful for their jobs and perhaps doubtful that they would make a difference. But Dr. Rogers, a Vietnam veteran, felt compelled to become a conscientious objector to the status quo.

The local cost of the medical treatment provided to illegal immigrants is small when contrasted to the billions of dollars the state and federal governments spend every year on the “undocumented,” but the numbers have grown dramatically. According to county health officials, the hundreds of illegal immigrants who were being treated through the indigent program in the mid-1990s have now grown to thousands of people, with the annual cost to taxpayers swelling into the millions of dollars.

Ironically, when Dr. Rogers, 67, took the position of medical director for the indigent services program back in 1999, he arrived in the Central Valley with hardly a clue (let alone an opinion) about illegal immigration and its impact on social services. He had one goal: to provide the best care possible for those who need it most.

As the years went by, however, that egalitarian perspective began to be tinged with cynicism as he watched poor citizens get squeezed out of the system even as illegal immigrants gleefully manipulated it, all while bureaucrats facilitated the rampant violations of the very laws they were entrusted to enforce.

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But when someone like Dr. Rogers speaks up to question the impact on citizens of such allocation of funds for health services like those in Sacramento, the response is clear: Sit down and shut up—or else.

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