A point about Undocumented Workers

The New York Times has a piece out today saying there are large increases in immigration and that it has spread to more diverse areas, which might be why it is becoming an election year issue. My Dad tells me that in the trucking business, the garbage haulers from PA-NY now travel with one English speaker and the rest are undocumented workers that might not be able to speak the language. It is these stories, true or not, that are driving the debate.

But, I wanted to clear up a point about undocumented workers. Some of the NYT story below the break, then the clarification.

And increasingly, immigrants are bypassing the traditional gateway states like California and New York and settling directly in parts of the country that until recently saw little immigrant activity — regions like the Upper Midwest, New England and the Rocky Mountain States.


“What’s happening now is that immigrants are showing up in many more communities all across the country than they have ever been in,” said Audrey Singer, an immigration fellow at the Brookings Institution. “So it’s easy for people to look around and not just see them, but feel the impact they’re having in their communities. And a lot of these are communities that are not accustomed to seeing immigrants in their schools, at the workplace, in their hospitals.


Immigrants also continue to flow into a handful of states in the Southeast, like Georgia and North Carolina, a trend that was discerned in the 2000 census.

Okay, undocumented workers and hospitals. There seems to be the misconception that our emergency rooms are backed up because undocumented workers use them for primary care. While the latter is true in many cases, the former is not.

Increases in the use of hospital emergency departments (EDs) might contribute to crowding at some EDs, higher health care costs, and lower-quality primary care. This study examines the extent to which differences in populations and health system factors account for variations in ED use across U.S. communities. Contrary to popular perceptions, communities with high ED use have fewer numbers of uninsured, Hispanic, and noncitizen residents.

One possible interpretation is that communities with high ED usage are larger areas that also have alternative choices and programs, whereas a rural area, with lower uninsured, Hispanic, and noncitizen residents (think Medicaid, elderly Medicare covered) have fewer choices.

Outpatient capacity constraints also contribute to high ED use.