Silence is deadly

The Justice Department announced a new drive to round up 6,000 Middle Eastern men out of 300,000 people who have visa violations. This dragnet based on racial profiling is yet another step in the strangling of civil rights and liberties by the Bush administration in the name of fighting terrorism.

Wade Henderson of the Leadership Council on Civil Rights said, “A dragnet approach to law enforcement – rounding up men based on national origin rather than suspicious behavior or credible evidence – is highly questionable.”

The first sweep right after Sept. 11 resulted in the detention of over 1,000 people, held without due process, legal representation or public scrutiny. Most were of Middle Eastern origin and hundreds are still being held.

The Constitution and the Bill of Rights guarantee the rights of all who live in the United States, whether citizen or immigrant. Public safety must be ensured, but not by hammering away at the cornerstones of democracy.

With these actions, the administration is creating an anti-immigrant atmosphere, targeting Arab people today, perhaps Latino people tomorrow and so on. Pastor Niemoller’s famous quote seems appropriate, “First they came for the communists, but I didn’t speak up …”

The fight for democracy is moving many to take a stand. Some 300 civil rights lawyers signed a statement calling for the defense of due process. The AFL-CIO called for a stepped-up struggle against racial profiling and for the protection of civil liberties. Elected officials, like Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wisc.), are actively resisting the right wing’s war on civil liberties. Some police departments have refused to cooperate with the Justice Department dragnets.

While the Bush administration tries to drive wedges between people based on race and nationality, between immigrants and citizens, all organizations and public officials have to speak out against these divisive and unconstitutional policies.


Time for a change

We’ve always supported a single-payer national health insurance system, a position premised on two fundamental propositions: First, that access to comprehensive health care is a human right and it is the responsibility of society, through its government, to assure this right; and second, that pursuit of corporate profit and personal fortune have no place in care-giving.

But something new is happening. More people are ready to consider this option. Most recently The Des Moines Register endorsed a single-payer system. Maybe this is fueled by the stark reality.

The U.S. trails most of the developed world in infant mortality and life expectancy unable to assure such basics as prenatal care and immunizations; more than 38 million people between the ages of 19 and 64 have no health insurance and millions more are underinsured; HMOs and insurance companies spend 13.6 percent of premiums for overhead compared to 3 percent in the Medicare program.

A universal health-care system would free workers and their families from the fear of losing health care when they lose their jobs. And that fear is real and growing: 750,000 laid-off workers have lost their health coverage since the recession began and thousands of retired workers – among them 600,000 steelworkers – face the loss of health insurance. HMOs, have raised Medicare costs by billions and drug firms, which have secured the highest profits and lowest taxes of any industry, price drugs out of reach of those who need them most.

Only a single, comprehensive program, covering rich and poor alike, can help end disparities based on race, class and region that compromise the health care of everyone living in the United States.

We agree with The Des Moines Register: “The current health-care hodgepodge in this country is a failure.” It’s time for a change.