What has us looking back to those long-forgotten days of last week is yet another vexing work from the Houston Chronicle’s stable of Metro columnists (a smallish stable, housing two, we believe). We’re not referring to the Rick Casey column of
So, no, it isn’t Casey’s “Dewey Beats Truman” moment that has us in a nostalgic mood, but rather the following day’s offering from Chronicle stablemate Lisa Falkenberg, who seems to be brazenly using her column to promote the candidacy of District Clerk Charles Bacarisse in the Republican primary for Harris County judge. How else to explain Falkenberg’s reporting that Bacarisse has been calling on the Harris County Hospital District to press “sponsors” (that is, family members) of documented (that is, legal) immigrants for payment of delinquent bills that the immigrants have run up with the district. (Imagine that: a politician who wants people to pay their bills to a government agency! Outrageous!) As Falkenberg notes
… a decade-old federal law allows the hospital district to hit up [a legal immigrant’s] sponsor for the money, under certain circumstances.And
… it is true that each sponsor signs an "affidavit of support" promising to take financial responsibility for immigrant family members in an attempt to keep them off the dole, so to speak.So to speak. But Falkenberg is a wily sort. Employing the craft and cunning she honed as the star columnist of the newspaper’s Yo! page (we think that's right), she brilliantly disguises her shameless promotion of Bacarisse as criticism. We’ll turn it over to Falkenberg here (’cause we’re up for no further paraphrasing, due to the fact that we’re actually lazier than Rick Casey). Referring to an earlier column she had written "attacking" Bacarisse for, as she put it, “attacking documented immigrants,” Falkenberg writes
After a few months of reflection, and recent developments on the issue, I have determined that I erred — not in my criticism of Bacarisse, but in not kicking him more swiftly in the rear the first time I took him to task.
It still seems that his focus on this issue has more to do with polls, political hot buttons and winning over a group of voters whose blood boils at the mere mention of the word "immigrant," than it does with his concern for taxpayers and good public policy.
Turning to the supposed matter at hand---sponsors’ failure to keep their commitment to support family members---she continues
Bacarisse has accused these "deadbeat sponsors" of shirking their duties and has taken aim at the county for not beating down the doors of these sponsors to recoup the money. Months ago, when I queried county officials about the problems Bacarisse had cited, they had no idea what he was talking about.
But Bacarisse's campaign asked the hospital district to tally the net cost of care provided to documented immigrants since 2005. The grand total — about $263 million, a substantial sum, though much less than the cost for illegal immigrants and only a fraction of the cost for citizens, who received more than $1 billion in free care over the same period.
Last month, Bacarisse issued a news release, touting those statistics and singing his own praises for getting results.
"Hospital District starts process for recovering funds and enforcing the law," read part of a headline.
Indeed, because of Bacarisse's inquiry, the hospital district has requested from immigration officials a database of sponsors so they can begin hunting down the sponsors to collect the money. They're just now beginning this process. So, it turns out the "deadbeat sponsors" probably weren't even asked to help pay the doctor bills before they were deemed to be shirking their duties.
This is terrible … the guy’s getting results and he hasn’t been elected yet.
As for Falkenberg, we have determined that she is more than qualified to flaunt her make-believe moral hauteur by virtue of the fact that, according to appraisal district records, she owns no property in
We’re pretty sure Bacarisse isn’t paying Falkenberg to write these columns, but we hope he’ll be listing them as in-kind contributions on his next campaign finance disclosure (estimated value: $3.73).