Tom Avril of the Philadelphia Inquirer on June 17, 2020, contributed this post:  Telemedicine during the coronavirus pandemic exposes the divide between the haves and the have-nots  to the world in which he paints a picture of an Hispanic woman unable to access medical care offered by telemedicine because she did not have a computer or internet service and her English was not that proficient.  He sees this as a have-not condition that has not been addressed by a society of people who have access to those amenities.  The reporting here is irresponsible in my view because of the inference that the ‘haves’ in society do nothing to help the ‘have-nots.’  Nothing could be further from the truth.  

What is NOT reported here is the immigration status.  IF this person were a legal immigrant with the financial status Tom Avril implies here, she would be on Medicaid.  Medical providers and hospitals receiving federal funding which includes Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIPP are required to provide translators for all non-English speaking people in medical and related legal interactions at state expense under the Civil Rights legislation  A case worker would tell them where there are libraries with computers available for free, or the telemedicine visit he refers to in his column could take place on a smart phone.  While most immigrants, legal or otherwise, have smart phones, Medicaid will even see to it in many states that there are smart phones available to the card holder.  

This is why it is important to have people come into this country legally.  Were they to do this, they would be given information that tells them they have these and many other rights, and who to contact when in need of them in their language.   If they are not proficient in the English language, they should be told where to report for English as a second language classes. Working-age limited English speaking adults earn 25% to 40% less than their English proficient counterparts, according to a Brookings Institution study in 2014. Residency visa renewals should be dependent upon attendance to such language classes.  Countless tragedies come from these individuals not understanding law enforcement, safety and health care instructions,  and yes, it is their responsibility to learn the language and not society’s responsibility to anticipate their every need for a translator.  Many opportunities for them to learn are provided.  The first emergency instructions on 9-11 were not in Spanish or Chinese. 

The person Mr Avril describes in his column is an illegal immigrant who is unable to speak English, and is still getting medical care.  This does not describe a have-not society.  It is also not the best reporting in the world, OR is an example of how the media manipulates the issue of poverty and immigration to further what they see as politically correct views.  In either case, such incomplete representation of the facts is not supported by the Society of Professional Journalists, which specifically reminds their members that an ethical journalist will ‘Provide context. Take special care not to misrepresent or oversimplify in promoting, previewing or summarizing a story.’

‘The duty of journalists is to tell the truth.  Journalism means you go back to the actual facts, you look at the documents, you discover what the record is, and you report it that way. ‘

Noam Chomsky, professor and author


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