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Death sentence for undocumented: Minnesota law cuts immigrants off medical care Jan. 1

By staff

_Activists call on Gov. Dayton to take executive action to assure nobody dies from new anti-immigrant law _

Saint Paul, MN – On Dec. 29, immigrant rights activists and supporters spoke out at a press conference against a new anti-immigrant law slated to cut immigrants off of Emergency Medical Assistance on Jan. 1, 2012. They called on Governor Dayton to take immediate executive action to stop it.

According to the change in law, on Jan. 1 undocumented immigrants in Minnesota will no longer qualify for many medical treatments under Minnesota’s Emergency Medical Assistance program. This means that immigrants in Minnesota who receive chemotherapy, dialysis, diabetes management, alcohol and drug treatment, pre-natal care and many other things will be in danger of not receiving their treatments. For people receiving essential treatments like chemotherapy for cancer or dialysis for kidney disease, this can mean life or death.

This new anti-immigrant policy was passed at the end of the legislative session on July 20, 2011 in the wee hours of the morning. Most people didn’t notice this anti-immigrant change in the law until after it had passed because the final budget deal was negotiated in secret between the Republican legislative leadership and the governor. The public and most legislators didn’t even have the chance to read through the final bills before having to vote on them during the special legislative session that ended the state government shutdown.

At the press conference, State Representatives Karen Clark and Carlos Mariani, along with State Senator Jeff Hayden, announced they they'll seek to reverse this anti-immigrant and inhumane policy when the new legislative session starts on Jan. 24. Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman said over 200 people in critical situations would be cut off in Hennepin County alone, and that the county has been scrambling to even let the affected people know that they are facing a cutoff of potentially life-or-death services. The Reverend John Gutterman of the Interfaith Coalition on Immigration spoke to the moral issue of denying fellow human beings basic medical care.

Linden Gawboy, speaking for the Welfare Rights Committee and the Minnesota Coalition for a People’s Bailout, groups that fought to stop all the cuts to human services during the legislative session, said, “We want this law stopped. If this law goes into effect, they will not just kill people. They will torture them before killing them. Imagine the process of dialysis being stopped, how long before the pain sets in. How long before you get so sick that you’re just waiting to slip into that coma.”

Isaac Martin of the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAc) said, “This shows that anti-immigrant politics remain inhumane. Minnesota’s politicians chose to balance the state budget on the backs of immigrants who have serious illnesses. They are taking away care from the elderly, people with cancer and with kidney disease, while they refused to raise taxes on the rich.”

Brad Sigal of MIRAc said, “Having the 'wrong' immigration status shouldn't be a death sentence. We call on Governor Dayton to take immediate action to assure that nobody in Minnesota dies from this inhumane law. We’re asking everyone to call Gov. Dayton at 651-201-3400 to demand that he take action to stop this before Jan. 1.”

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