The Intersection Of Health Care And Immigration In the Hispanic community, there are issues in the debate over health care that spill over into the debate over immigration policy. Rev. Luis Cortes Jr. is president and CEO of Esperanza, a national network of 12,000 churches, ministries and community-based organizations. Host Liane Hansen speaks with Cortes about the reaction in the Hispanic community.
NPR logo

The Intersection Of Health Care And Immigration

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/113005541/113005513" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
The Intersection Of Health Care And Immigration

The Intersection Of Health Care And Immigration

The Intersection Of Health Care And Immigration

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/113005541/113005513" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

In the Hispanic community, there are issues in the debate over health care that spill over into the debate over immigration policy. Rev. Luis Cortes Jr. is president and CEO of Esperanza, a national network of 12,000 churches, ministries and community-based organizations. Host Liane Hansen speaks with Cortes about the reaction in the Hispanic community.

LIANE HANSEN, host:

In the Hispanic community, there are issues in the debate over health care that spill over into the debate over immigration policy. The Reverend Luis Cortes Jr. is president and CEO of Esperanza, a national network of 12,000 churches, ministries and community-based organizations. He was a guest during the election and the inauguration and he's back. It's good to talk to you again.

Reverend LUIS CORTES Jr. (President and CEO, Esperanza): Well, thank you. It's great to be on.

HANSEN: So, what are you hearing from your constituencies? What are the concerns that you're hearing about health care reform?

Rev. CORTES: Well, our constituency is feeling two things. One, they're starting - we're starting to feel besieged and ostracized by our government. And secondly, we're beginning to feel that we are being scapegoated on the health care problems of our nation.

HANSEN: What do you mean scapegoated?

Rev. CORTES: Well, the entire issue of health care reform, the last few days has fallen into a conversation about what we're going to do with legal immigrants and undocumented people. And some political leaders on both sides of the isle, I must say, are putting forth ideas such as even if you are a legal immigrant, in other words, you have your documents, you cannot get health care, which is as un-American as you can get when you're saying someone is totally legal, their children are citizens. But if you haven't been, you still cannot buy into health care.

And apparently, there's a group of Americans who feel it's very important that not happen, that our tax dollars be not used that way. We are willing to risk America's public health. And no one seems to be discussing that issue. The H1N1 virus, for example, will not ask any child, are you a citizen?

So, my general inclination is that Americans should be looking out for our public health as a nation. We also have a moral responsibility to try to provide for people, citizens and legal immigrants, within our country. I personally believe that we should also try to find ways to take care of any child that lives within our borders. It's unfair for children to pay for the sins of their parents.

HANSEN: Do you feel that the Hispanic community is being, I mean, singled out as opposed to other immigrant communities that are in the country?

Rev. CORTES: Yes. And we are being singled out quite a bit on television by the so called pundits which you constantly see are groups of people climbing over the fence. There are 50 million people in our country that are of Hispanic origin, and most of us were born here. The vast majority of us are citizens. We contribute to society. Yet because of the economics and because we've lost our capacity to have civil discourse, we're the new whipping boy for government as well as the press.

HANSEN: What formula would you like to see for a health care reform bill?

Rev. CORTES: Well, it's obvious that what we have doesn't work. And while I'm not a health care specialist and I don't have a specific health care policy that I want, I am hopeful that as American people see this health care debate and as we move into the debate on immigration after this health care debate that we can find the things that make us better people and that we can focus on becoming a better nation taking care of people who don't have enough as well as taking care of those who work hard within our borders and want nothing more than to become Americans themselves.

HANSEN: Reverend Luis Cortes Jr. is president and CEO of Esperanza. Thank you.

Rev. CORTES: Thank you very much.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.