Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Who Will Care for the US Elderly if the Borders are Closed?

Thanks to Lisa Eckenwiler for bringing this article to our attention from the Wall Street Journal:
(subscription required) Who Will Care For U.S. Elderly If Border Closes?
July 26, 2006; Page B1
PHILADELPHIA -- Forty years ago, Blanca Maldonado moved to the U.S. from Puerto Rico. She married and had 13 children, 28 grandchildren and 30 great-grandchildren. Now 76 years old and bedridden with bone disease, she is cared for by Xiomara Martinez, an immigrant who arrived in 1996 from the Dominican Republic. Luis Maldonado, a 43-year-old cook, sat at his mother's bedside on a visit to her small apartment here one afternoon. "We'd all love to be with her all the time, but we have to take care of our needs," he said of his family. "But we never stop thinking of Mama." Neither does Ms. Martinez. Her own mother entered the U.S. illegally in 1978 and eventually got a green card. After a long wait, her children joined her. At 47, Ms. Martinez earns $6.65 an hour, paid through a state agency, for taking care of Ms. Maldonado's needs, from baths to rice and beans.

The article goes on to say that in the immigration fight that continues to frustrate Congress and its constituency this summer, workers such as Ms. Martinez are examples that the issue cuts into something more basic: a demographic thundercloud moving over the country as baby boomers approach old age. Immigrants, whether legal or undocumented, make up a disproportionate share of those who care for the elderly -- and the need for such workers is set to explode in the coming years. Where will the extra helpers come from?

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