As president Obama pushes healthcare reform in Washington, the healthcare debate in Grand Junction is heating up.
One local group is outraged that some that non–profits may be providing health care to illegal immigrants but immigrant advocates say those people should be upset at the system, not the people getting care.
There may be anywhere from seven to 20 million immigrants in the US illegally--living, working and in need of medical care.
AmaLia with Me and Associates, a local advocacy group, says she doesn't have a problem with that but it's how they're getting health care that makes her mad.
"The non–citizen people, yes, they should have care but not at the cost of the US citizens," AmaLia told 11 News on Monday.
She says it's a shame--Marillac Clinic turning away citizens who are underinsured but providing medical services to anyone without insurance, including immigrants who may be here illegally.
"It's not quite right, i think it's unfair for this to be happening."
Marillac Clinic declined an on camera interview but said their mission is to serve people in Mesa County who don't have insurance, and although some illegal immigrants may be getting care, they say it's because of their services more people are getting the preventive care they need.
Thomas Acker, professor and member of Western Colorado Justice for Immigrants says AmaLia and Me and Associates are asking the wrong question.
"The question that needs to be asked is why are we allowing so many people not to have healthcare, rather than begrudging a few people some services," Acker told 11 News on Monday.
Acker says although many immigrants may be here illegally, he says they are contributing to the economy through their jobs in agriculture and construction.
"They are working members of our society. They're not here living off welfare or anything that some people would like to imagine."
Although Acker and AmaLia disagree about who should get help first but they do agree on one thing--that healthcare is badly in need of reform.
Lawmakers are hearing the calls for healthcare reform. The Colorado House of Representatives is considering a bill right now that would provide healthcare for everyone. It's not clear if illegal immigrants would be included. That bill is expected for a vote in the Business Affairs and Labor + Appropriations committee March 18th.
For more information on House Bill 1273 click on the link below.
AmaLia and Me and Associates invite comments at MEandAssoc@gmail.com