In Jim Cook's Archive


My company shares our office building with the U.S. Immigration Service. For the last few years a steady flow of immigrants from Central America have poured into the building. At times, they crowd the lobby. For the most part they don’t speak English. I always smile and try to be friendly when I’m in the lobby. The other day, there was a young Central American Indian woman with five little kids. I said hello, but she looked unsure of herself and didn’t reply.

I got to thinking about how she would fare in America without speaking the language. Would she be able to work? Who would take care of her kids? It was apparent she would likely have to be subsidized. The government would give her the money and services she needed. This is not unusual for immigrants. A former employee of mine had a job for years signing up Somali immigrants for various government payments. I have nothing against immigrants who are often hard working people. I would also not begrudge this woman with five kids the means to raise them properly. However, the U.S. is running nearly unmanageable debt levels because of the relentless growth in entitlements. Once you start these social programs, you can’t stop them. They only grow. Ultimately they could prove to be terminal for the nation. The more subsidized immigrants we take in the closer we are to a day of reckoning.

One day, when I walked into the lobby, I spotted a little two-year-old kid with a hairlip and cleft palate. I asked a man with him if he was the father. He barely spoke English, but I determined that the boy’s mother was in the immigration office. Eventually I met the mother and with the help of an interpreter I suggested the boy have his hairlip fixed. Of course, she had no money so I told her I would pay for it. Subsequently, I located a plastic surgeon in St. Paul who had worked on the Smile Train fixing these disfigurements. I called his office and arranged an appointment for the boy, and volunteered to pay for it. After a few weeks, a nurse called and told me the boy was scheduled for surgery. However she explained the boy was probably going to need two surgeries and it would be expensive. That alarmed me, but there was no backing out.

It was a year ago that the boy had the surgery and I have heard nothing from the family, the hospital or the physician’s office. Somebody had to pay for it, but it wasn’t me. There must have been a government program that picked up the tab. That’s fine with me. Frankly, I’m not asking any questions.

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