Shin: Rauner too selective about his Illinois ‘family’

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Shin: Rauner too selective about his Illinois ‘family’

Heiwon Shin, Columnist

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In a recent speech addressing Illinois’ budget problems, Gov. Bruce Rauner compared his constituency to a family. “Like a family, we must come together to address the reality we face,” Rauner said. “Every member can’t get everything they want.” But from what I’ve seen so far, I’m not sure the governor values all parts of his Illinois “family” equally. As evidenced by his extra cuts to Medicaid that came to light last week, he seems to see certain Illinois family members — like businesses and the wealthy — as more important than others. I can’t help but see Rauner’s $26 million cut in social services and public health funds, including $3.4 million for immigrant integration assistance, as him being willing to leave behind some family members, like immigrants, disabled individuals, people with mental illnesses and those relying on state funding to make a living or get essential support like Medicaid. Even Lilo and Stitch know better: “Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind.”

Granted, when Rauner became the head of the Illinois family, he inherited an unbelievable amount of debt — more than $160 billion. The governor has to make budget cuts in many areas. In the ideal world, we would be able to fund everything that we see as necessary, but with limited resources come hard decisions. I respect him for his courage to make decisions he knows will be unpopular and make bold cuts the state needs.

However, Rauner is supporting businesses while leaving out others, such as immigrants. As an international student looking to start a career in the United States after graduation, I can’t help but notice the current status of immigrants. Around the world, extreme right wing, anti-immigrant sentiments have manifested in xenophobic movements. At Northwestern, I know I’m in a protected environment surrounded by supportive friends and peers, but outside of this haven, I realize non-Americans, Americans-to-be, or even recently-recognized-Americans may find themselves far from the ideal of the American Dream.

There are almost 1.75 million immigrants in Illinois — almost 14 percent of the state’s population, according to Illinois’ Office of Policy and Advocacy. With the Illinois immigrant population growing about 35,000 ever year, immigrants are, needless to say, a huge part of the Illinois economy and society. But Rauner proposes cuts to immigrant services as well as Medicaid, making it even more difficult for the new Illinois family members to adjust to life here.

I spoke to several immigrant support groups in Chicago to learn more about how the proposed budget cuts would affect health care for immigrants — documented or undocumented, insured or uninsured. Immigrants already face difficult conditions, and cuts would only make them worse.

One of the biggest problems for immigrants, including those who have insurance, is their access to information. Immigrants get their information from immigrant support groups that receive state money, funding that would be affected by the budget cuts.

The opportunity of the American Dream is becoming increasingly restricted. Coming from South Korea, a country with universal health coverage, I find it difficult to adjust to the idea that the more vulnerable you are financially, the more challenges you face in seeking the help or services you need. Back home I went to the doctor whenever I didn’t feel well. Thanks to the national insurance, I usually paid less than $10 to both go to the doctor and get my prescriptions. But when I was down with a bad cold while in Texas for a three-week exchange program, a trip to the doctor cost me $200 because I didn’t have insurance. Maybe it’s not the same in different states or regions, but at this rate, I can see how simple medical fees can add up, and more complicated treatments and procedures can become unaffordable. Of course Korea has its own problems, and it’s hard to compare countries with such different histories and sizes, and I don’t intend to do so. But as a human, I feel uneasy letting more people suffer, especially when that suffering is written into policy.

I can’t impose values on people, but if Rauner thinks Illinois is his family, he shouldn’t leave the more vulnerable members of that family behind.

This column was updated April 26 at 11:24 p.m. for clarity.

Heiwon Shin is a Medill sophomore. She can be contacted at heiwonshin2017@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com.

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