Seth Grossman, the Republican candidate for Congress in the second district, seemed to suggest that immigration enforcement agents should stake out hospital emergency rooms to detain undocumented immigrants, during his debate with Jeff Van Drew at Stockton Wednesday night.
Grossman’s suggestion, which elicited laughter and applause, came in response to a question about Republican attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act last winter.
Van Drew had said high numbers of uninsured people drove up healthcare costs because it meant more emergency-room visits, which were expensive and had to be subsidized.
“Well, Senator Jeff Van Drew just gave me an idea how to find all those illegal aliens without having to take a census,” Grossman said.
“All you have to do is send them down to the emergency room of any hospital, and I think we’ll find a whole bunch and maybe we can solve our problem. And if we didn’t have to subsidize illegal immigrants, healthcare and insurance would be a whole lot cheaper.”
Grossman also said “illegal immigrants” should not be included in the 2020 census.
It wasn’t completely clear whether Grossman meant Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) should stake out ERs, to lower healthcare costs, or if he meant some other agency. Emails to Grossman and his spokespersons were not immediately returned.
Under current ICE policy, hospitals are considered “sensitive locations” where enforcement actions are generally avoided. Churches, schools and religious ceremonies are also sensitive locations. Courthouses are not considered sensitive locations.
It is unclear how much public money would be saved by discouraging undocumented immigrants from seeking emergency medical treatment and then adding back whatever the cost of stalking ERs would be, but is that really the point?
According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, undocumented immigrants paid $587 million in state and local taxes just in New Jersey in 2014. DACA-eligible New Jerseyans paid about $66 million in taxes in 2016, reportedly.
ICE, which was created to deal with terrorism and prosecutes only a small number of terrorism cases per year, had a projected budget of about $8.8 billion for fiscal 2019.
The point is a kind of performative cruelty. As somebody else put it recently, apropos of Grossman’s role model, the POTUS, “The president’s ability to execute that cruelty through word and deed makes them euphoric. It makes them feel good, it makes them feel proud, it makes them feel happy, it makes them feel united. And as long as he makes them feel that way, they will let him get away with anything, no matter what it costs them.”