Tuesday, April 3, 2018


Sadly, there are enormous anti-immigrant rhetoric and threats coming forth from President Trump and other government leaders every week.  But the rhetoric and threats rarely mention the unintended consequences:  those people who rely upon immigrants for assistance.

In this blog I will focus on the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who provide special care for our older members of society--those in special care homes, or those receiving special care in their own homes.  These senior citizens are already learning that their beloved caregivers may be deported, and there are no Americans willing to take their places.

These caregivers work long hours and very difficult work caring for people with many physical disabilities, incontinence, illnesses, and other challenges.  Working 60 to 70 hours a week is normal.  They receive minimum wage salaries:  the median wage for personal care attendants and home health aides is only $10.66 an hour.  Those persons certified as nursing assistants may earn $12.78 an hour.  No overtime, no health care for them, and no paid leave or vacation.

Our older Americans depend totally upon these caregivers, but since the vast majority are immigrants, threats are looming.  Many are here without proper documents.  Others came in under the TPS [Temporary Protected Status] provision for immigrants facing a disaster at home, such as earthquakes and tornadoes.  But the Trump Administration wants to halt the TPS program and deport all of these people.

Another immigrant group under dire threat are relatives of people who are legal citizens of our country.  The Trump Administration calls these people beneficiaries of what they disdain as "chain migration."  In our Gospel perspective, we call it family reunification.  The Administration wants to halt family reunification, and focus entirely upon a "merit based" policy--a policy which basically excludes all people of color, and everyone without an advanced degree or skill.

Professor Paul Osterman from Massachusetts Institute of Technology predicts a shortfall of 151,000 direct care workers by 2030 (12 years from now), and a shortfall of 355,000 by the year 2040.  And those are conservative estimates.  Many populous states, such as California, will face far more disastrous losses because of the large population of immigrants involved in senior care.

Some groups who believe that Americans would take these jobs if the pay were doubled or tripled, and with all the usual employee benefits, don't understand that our seniors live with very tight fixed incomes--and they could never afford such care at those costs.  And with Social Security and Medicare on the brink of become insolvent, there are no increases coming.

It is sad that when people--especially ones who are supposed to be leaders--continue to propagate venom towards our immigrants, invite us all to fear them, and to work hard to drive them out of the country.  It is a phenomenon we have witnessed since the early 1800s, and it goes in cycles.  Political leaders and others can be counted on to drag forward our brother and sister immigrants to blame for whatever ails our country.

As Catholics, our approach is rather simple:  "For I was a stranger, and you welcomed me!"  That approach brings with it all the blessings that we will ever need to care for each other!