June 6th, 2009
11:00 AM ET

A politician's surprise

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/06/04/georgia.teen.heart/art.guatemalan.family.cnn.jpg caption="Juan's parents, Pascual and Maria, made their first plane trip to visit him from Guatemala. "]

Emma Lacey-Bordeaux
CNN Researcher

Congressman Phil Gingrey represents Georgia’s 11th district - a suburban and rural area which holds mostly conservative views. Two years ago, when I was a student at Georgia State, I interviewed Representative Gingrey for a radio program on the university’s radio station WRAS. The Congressman was once an OBGYN, and some 20 years earlier he had actually delivered a colleague of mine.

Since that time I had not followed the Congressman’s career; until this week, when I looked up from my computer – and there he was on CNN.

This is a politician who makes a big deal of his position against illegal immigration, calling undocumented immigrants a “tremendous strain on Georgia’s hospitals, school systems and social welfare programs…” He lays out 10 principles he will stick to when considering immigration legislation. Here is number ten:

‘Illegal aliens currently in the United States may be afforded a one-time opportunity to leave the country without being prosecuted. Those who do not take advantage of this opportunity will be removed and permanently barred from returning.’

Juan Gonzalez is an undocumented immigrant who is 18-years-old. He came to the United States from Guatemala last year and wound up in Rome, Georgia, part of Rep. Gingrey’s district working as a dishwasher. In November, Gonzalez discovered he had a chronically weak heart. His prognosis was dire. His parents back in Guatemala were desperate to see their son for perhaps the last time. But they were having a great deal of difficulty obtaining the paperwork necessary to come to the United States.

The Gingrey principles on immigration would have reunited the family very quickly – back in their home country of Guatemala. In fact, that’s what hospitals in the U.S. sometimes do when they have a patient who’s here illegally and who is unable to pay for expensive treatment: send them home.

But the congressman treated Juan Gonzalez like one of his own constituents. He helped the family navigate the federal bureaucracy, giving them the assistance they needed. Gingrey's efforts blatantly contradicted his own 'immigration principles,' still the Congressman went out of his way to reunite the teenager with his parents – on American soil.

Mr. and Mrs. Gonzalez arrived in Georgia toward the end of May. Gonzalez has been transferred St. Joseph’s hospital in Atlanta thanks to the Larry King Foundation where he will await a heart transplant.

So why did Congressman Gingrey go the extra mile for someone who is in the country illegally?

His Press Secretary, Chris Jackson, told me Rep. Gingrey’s actions were motivated by humanitarian concerns. He also reminded me that Numbers USA, an organization which advocates for lower levels of immigration, consistently gives Congressman Gingrey a high ranking. Simply put, Jackson said: “Juan Gonzalez is a sick kid who was too fragile to leave the hospital and who wanted to see his parents.”

Still I couldn’t help wondering what if….What if Juan gets a new heart and recovers…Would the congressman advocate deportation?

To which Jackson replied: “Eventually we hope that he will be in a condition to be with his family who obviously love him, in Guatemala.”

Filed under: 360° Radar • Immigration
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Terry, TX

    Another CNN story laying the foundation for the Obama illegal amnesty agenda....oh...sorry ...."Immigration Reform".

    The Congressman is correct in his stance of on illegal aliens. CNN wake up....it's American stance. Americans want illegal aliens prosecuted and deported...the creepy left want them placed at the head of line....above those legal immigrants who are in line.
    Why...for votes....Duh.

    As an American citizen of Mexican descent our illegal alien laws should be enforced and people removed from this country....no matter where their country of origin is.

    We are a charitable nation and give care when needed...that's not path to citizenship.

    June 8, 2009 at 8:49 am |
  2. Michael Schumann

    "The heart he receives will be one denied an American citizen."

    As a person with a genetic heart disease, this observation offends me.

    I once faced the need for a possible heart transplant, Instead, my heart was surgically reshaped, a value repaired and I now have an ICD. (cost me all my teeth, too – go figure)

    These where all things beyond my own means, but not beyond my legitimate NEED.

    I would not deny anyone with a real medical need, based on this kind of of skewed priority.

    June 8, 2009 at 4:10 am |
  3. Magnus

    Mike, human is human. It is better to have tried and failed, then lose our humanity creating a social hierarchy of who "deserves" to live or die.

    June 7, 2009 at 1:18 pm |
  4. Laura

    I wonder how you would feel if this was a relative of yours? Charity begins at home, huh? Well, as a human being, I believe that no one life is more important than another. Circumstances be damned, if you can help someone you should. I cannot believe the heartlessness of some people. I would feel the same way even if my "American" relative was waiting for that same heart. So, hopefully that will stop anyone from attacking me in that way.

    June 7, 2009 at 9:26 am |
  5. Jason B.

    Great article Ms. Lacey-Bordeaux.

    June 6, 2009 at 2:00 pm |
  6. Mike in NYC

    The heart he receives will be one denied an American citizen.

    This reminds me of a case some years back where an illegal immigrant child was given a transplanted organ, which then failed and was replaced with another one. She eventually died. Those were two organs that could have saved the lives of Americans.

    Charity begins at home.

    June 6, 2009 at 11:52 am |
  7. susan

    as a physician, driven by the Prayer of Maimonides – a Jew originally from Spain who left under the Moors, became a renown torah scholar and later physician to the great Saladin.

    "....Be with me, Almighty Father of Mercy, in all my efforts to heal the sick. For with you, man is but a helpless creature. Grant that I may be filled with love for my art and for my fellow-man. May the thirst for gain and the desire for fame be far from my heart. For these are the enemies of Pity and the ministers of Hate. Grant that I may be able to devote myself, body and soul, to your children who suffer from pain.

    "Preserve my strength, that I may be able to restore the strength of the rich and the poor, the good and the bad, the friend and the foe. Let me see in the sufferer, the man alone....Let me be intent upon one thing, O Father of Mercy, to be always merciful to your suffering children.

    "....Our work is great and the mind of man presses forward forever. You have chosen me in Your grace to watch over the life and death of your creatures. .... Guide me in this immense work so that it may be of avail."

    Also, this is a tradition of the great tertiary and quaternary US medical care – to provide care to those who would not have a hint of a chance in their home countries.

    June 6, 2009 at 10:44 am |