On Independence Day weekend you can count on barbequing, fireworks, heightened terror alerts and empty words from venal politicians about how deeply they care about our security and well being.
Last month, the House of Representatives voted down two amendments in blatant disregard for the good of America.
One amendment would have made the nation safer from terrorism and the other would have taken a step toward putting a lid on soaring health care costs.
In 1996, Congress passed legislation that specifically prohibited state and local governments from granting sanctuary—a policy wherein public officials, including police officers, are not allowed to inquire about an individual's immigration status. Whether that individual is applying for public services or is suspected of a criminal offense, no person may question his residence status.
Despite the fact that sanctuary violates federal law, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and New York have enacted such a policy. And sanctuary is permitted throughout the State of Maine.
The Tancredo amendment would have created financial incentives for cities to rescind their sanctuary policies. At the same time, the amendment would have provided additional protection to citizens since illegal aliens and terrorists congregate in places where they know their residency status will not be questioned.
Not surprisingly, Tancredo's proposed amendment set off a heated exchange in Congress. And the predictable and tiresome charges of "racism" and "mean-spirited" won out over common sense and people's will.
The amendment failed by a vote of 148-259.
What the Rohrabacher amendment proposed was that anyone applying for emergency medical services would need to provide information regarding his citizenship and his actual place of residence. Also required would be an indication of financial responsibility (insurance) and some tangible form of identification like a passport or a fingerprint.
If this sounds familiar to you, that's because it is exactly the procedure you follow when you go to the emergency room.
The amendment does not, as critics claim, "deny" medical treatment. But it does say that healthcare to illegal aliens should be given only to protect U.S. citizens, to save the life of an alien in a life-threatening medical emergency or to stabilize that individual until he can be repatriated for medical care in his native country.
In summary, anyone who needs true emergency treatment will receive it—at your expense. But then, that person must go home.
That sounds fair to me and to most Americans, particularly to the tens of millions who have no health care insurance or pay for insurance out of their own pocket.
But Congress disagreed. The bill was squashed like a bug, 88-331.
In her recent address to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi erroneously summarized the intention of two amendments this way:
"Recently, a majority of Republicans voted for a bill by Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado that tried to take away homeland security funds from localities that do not act as immigration agents. A majority of Republicans voted with Tom Tancredo on this. Fortunately, we defeated it.
"And Republicans tried to make hospitals into immigration stations and force doctors to deport patients who came to their emergency rooms. But 100 percent of Democrats voted against that bill." (Pelosi Remarks to NALEO Conference, June 25 PRNewswire)
Pelosi is blind to reality. By rejecting the Tancredo amendment, Congress astoundingly voted not to support existing federal law.
And the Rohrabacher amendment was simply stated the obvious: the United States cannot provide free health care to all comers.
If our elected officials were serious about fighting terrorism, they would empower local law enforcement agencies instead of tying their hands.
And if Congress wanted to do the right thing for struggling Americans, it would work toward a fair and affordable health care system for citizens.
In the fifteen years that I have studied federal immigration policy, I have never been more bewildered by the callous indifference to the people repeatedly shown by our lawmakers.
So this Independence Day, I'll stick to barbequing and fireworks.
And I'll skip the hollow speeches by craven politicians.
Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.