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'Walking Through The Valley of the Shadow of Death' by Rev. Hurmon Hamilton

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Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: Psalm 23:4 (King James Version)

Perhaps no other Scripture of sacred text better describes these perilous times in which our Commonwealth finds itself on this very day. His Eminence, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, eloquently describes this dangerous economic valley through which we are traversing in his July 24 blog: “The Governor and the Legislature in the commonwealth face excruciatingly difficult choices this week. Final decisions about the budget bring together the fact of an economy in deep recession, declining state revenues and multiple human needs among the citizens of the commonwealth.” The Cardinal continues, “A particular issue of concern to me is the possibility that funding for health coverage for 28,000 legal immigrants may be cut in whole or in part….The commonwealth has done a very commendable job of providing health care to the citizens of Massachusetts. It would be a tragic mistake to let these 28,000 members of our community lose access to the precious good of health care.”

“Yea, though [we] walk through the valley of the shadow of death. . .”

“A tragic mistake” the Cardinal says. I would, respectfully, like to expand on the Cardinal’s accurate assertion, “a tragic mistake.” I would go a step further and say a “catastrophic mistake.” With the bottom out of our economy, our state political leaders are faced with many horrific challenges. Tremendous cuts in every area – disabilities, mental health, elderly, public safety, HIV&AIDS, public education and the list goes on and on and on! Indeed, the implications of many of these cuts are captured by the word, “tragic.” But to cut 28,000 legal immigrants access to health care is beyond tragic – it is a catastrophic mistake. Here is why.

The first, and most obvious reason, is that 28,000 more people in the Commonwealth would be without health insurance. Since the dawn of health reform, across the state, a chorus of testimonies has gone up, reminding us all that access to health insurance means access to potentially life-saving preventive and follow-up care. In short, people may die, due to this decision.

Second, this segment of our community is among the most vulnerable, and the least resourced. Therefore, all these cuts and their corresponding tragedies disproportionally affect the immigrant community. This disproportional affect will only be compounded with the loss of access to quality health care.

“Yea, thou [we] walk through the shadow of death, we will fear no evil. . .”

Third, cutting 28,000 legal immigrants out of health insurance would be a catastrophic mistake precisely because it punishes a population that has done everything right in terms of being in this country legally. These are legal immigrants — taxpaying, law abiding residents on their way to becoming citizens of this great country. And for this we want to punish them? For those who counter, “No we are not punishing them for being immigrants,” I only remind you of the rationale offered by our governmental officials when asked, “why this particular cut.” The answer is that the federal government provides a match for all of the dollars that our Commonwealth spends on healthcare except for those spent on immigrants, including “legal immigrants.” In short, this population is losing its health care because of the status of “legal immigrants.” So this cut unlike the other tough cuts, is not simply driven by a scarcity of resources, but also by a prejudice, unjust and evil federal policy. If Massachusetts implements this particular cut, our Commonwealth is co-signing and ratifying this evil policy. Such an act will not only severely damage the Soul of our Commonwealth, but it will provide fuel for backward movement as a nation seeks to develop a sensible and just immigration policy. A catastrophic mistake!

“Yea, thou [we] walk through the shadow of death, we will fear no evil. . .”

Finally, Massachusetts is now a model for our nation. As our leaders in the nation’s capital struggle over the details of crafting national health care reform, do we really want to model for them a retreat from universal coverage? Especially when we know that such a retreat could lead to the death of national healthcare reform? NO! We should, and we must model for them the resolve to develop creative solutions for difficult problems even in the economic valley of the shadow of death.
So on behalf of GBIO, I join our voice to that of the Cardinal, as well as to those voices from people of all faiths and no faith; to those voices of people who love justice and honor mercy – to make two simple requests. Will the Governor, the Speaker of the House, the Senate President and their colleagues do the following: (1) Press forward to find a solution, even if it is a temporary solution, that preserves quality health care for these 28,000 legal, tax paying members of our Commonwealth. (2) Join with us in demanding that our Federal Government eliminate the prejudice, unjust, and evil policy that denies a federal match for dollars spent to insure legal immigrants. I am convinced that this can be done, for the God of the Universe is with us, God’s rod and staff comforts us. Surely we can make it through this valley of the shadow of death, with our souls and values intact.

Rev. Hurmon E. Hamilton, Jr
Senior Pastor of Roxbury Presbyterian Church USA
President of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization

This program aired on July 28, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

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