But shalt give him a liberal reward of your sheep, and of your corn, and of your wine: you shall give him of that wherewith the Lord your God has blessed you. And remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God delivered you: therefore, I command you this thing today. —Deuteronomy 15:114-15
The United States, once a pillar and bastion of democracy, had over the years, appears to be crumbling as tweaking and tinkering of this model global power is weakening at its core base. Formerly the open-arms human rights defender of defenseless foreigners, the country has in recent years not only donned the anti-immigrant attire, it has also turned inward en-masse on the client base as companies appear to have united to whip their customers, obeying their commands and demands. There is no better observer to this upside down turn of events than recent migrant, 65-year old Tramain Gomez (not real name) from the West African savanna rainforests.
The US used to pride itself of being a welcoming country; the Americans, after all, are immigrants, with the original inhabitants of the land having been pushed to Reservations. The welcome, however, has shriveled as some look at immigrants as criminals, others look at them as persons that will take advantage of benefits from government handouts derived from their taxes. So, there is distrust or dislike of anyone that has a foreign accent, especially of non-white variety. On the company side, the US was once and continues to be replete with a well-organized labor force, but so too have companies returned the favor. More and more unity is best.
The clients are losing. Tramain Gomez, finds himself tied in an endless knot of modern US red-tape blues. In the last six months, his work permit expired, lost his teacher assistant position and health insurance, could not get unemployment insurance, car insurance premiums got increased by $20 per month, he failed to register for his teacher training course due to immigration status, and a free iPhone ended up hiking his telephone bill beyond the 65+ years promotion.
“America is not what it was cracked up to be anymore!” he cried out while waiting on a line at the DMV office to pay for a third car-related fee.
As the line and wait were long, he related his psychedelic blues, it was quite a truckload, making one wonder, how are foreigners faring in this once land of the great American dream, land of opportunity, land that talks and believes in the fairness and equality of all humans! Tramain’s experiences were indeed mind-boggling.
His first lament was with the auto insurance industry, whom he says are in cahoots with each other. Tramain ran a stop sign which he is absolutely sure has not been at this particular corner that he drives on three times a week. He got a ticket and paid a US$150 fine to the Department of Motor Vehicle. Three weeks later he got a letter from his auto insurance company giving him a US$20 hike on his auto insurance. When he inquired why his premium was being increased, the agent related to him his traffic offence. It would be this high for three years. He tried to change insurance companies. They all came up with the raised premium because of the one traffic offense.
Another lament he could not get over was his experience with cellphone use providers and “free stuff” promotions. He jumped at one “free-iPhone 12” promotion and found himself paying over US$100, although the promotion was targeting 65+ year-old clients (US$60.00 per month). The promotion also had a free tablet attached. There was no mention of the $35 service fee for the free tablet. It took seven calls and angry out-pouring of his soul to get back to the advertised $60.00 for senior rate.
As an immigrant, he is required to renew his work permit annually. This usually takes three to four months. For some unexplained reason, the 2021 has been different, and it will take nine and half months. In the time his permit expired, Tramain was twice escorted out of the school building where he works by the principal. When he applied for unemployment insurance, he was asked for his work permit.
“I told her, ‘Lady, if I had a work permit, I’d be at work, I would not need unemployment insurance,’” he told me, obviously perplexed about his rock-and-a-hard-place situation.
His woes did not end with no job and no unemployment benefits; he also lost his work-based health insurance. He applied for the Government Health Insurance.
He explains that his experience was a cumbersome thing similar to pulling teeth without Novocaine. He had to produce many immigration documents, and repeatedly requested to produce his documents to various sections of the website. He was inundated with numerous emails, mailed letters and phone calls. He was later told he would be enrolled into the health insurance in three weeks.
Tramain has a health condition and requires six different medicines. He found out the cost of one 30-day supply of the life-saving prescription medicine, is priced at US$4,500 when purchased without medical insurance.
The fact that Tramain is having problems with the delay for his work permit approval, is intrinsically tied to the delay in his getting a permanent resident visa. Not going into specifics of his case, he told me how rude the customer service ethos has become in the US.
He said in the past years, you could either walk into a Homeland Security office and use their computers to book an appointment; he said this year, maybe due to the pandemic, one is required to use one’s own computer or call using one’s phone. But the calling part was another no ‘Novocain teeth-pulling event,’ citing how an automated robot one day warned him that she will hang up if he persists asking to speak to an agent.
“I put her to the challenge and said ‘I want to speak to an agent.’ She politely told me she was disengaging the call. I couldn’t believe, the US Customer Service had taught a robot the art of rudeness!” Tramain lamented.
He informed me that he is an assistant teacher, although in his home country he taught high school chemistry and physics, but here in the US, because he does not have a Teacher’s License, he is an assistant teacher. He has tried to enroll in teacher training colleges; however, the fees are not only exorbitant, but they are also prohibitive and not very welcoming. He said he spends a lot of time filling applications, responding to questions and after giving all his papers and sometimes application fees, the communication dies from the college side. He also said that tuition is high for foreign students, with fees already between $15,000 and $38,000 for a masters in education, for the foreign student, it is slightly higher.
“America has evolved into a very unwelcoming and closed country. I am not an undocumented immigrant. I am documented. I am legally here. However, once my work permit expires, I feel as disrespected or suspected as the 11 million undocumented immigrants. It is an overwhelming situation. Even my friends at school stop contacting me,” he said.
“America, Oh America, where is your former goodness!” he lamented waxing poetic.
There is hope in the US however, with the announcement this week of an outstretched hand to the world; this is in COVID news corridors. A Reuters report states that drug manufacturer Merck has signed a pact to broaden generic manufacturing of a COVID-19 pill that will be made available globally.
The report states that the US drugmaker Merck & Co (MRK.N) this week announced that it has signed a licensing agreement with the United Nations-backed Medicines Patent Pool (MPP). This will allow other companies to manufacture generic versions of the experimental oral antiviral COVID-19 treatment.
Merck said the royalty-free license would apply to 105 low – and middle-income countries, this includes Malawi, which is a low-income country. The agreement allows manufacturers that are selected by the MPP to make generic versions of Molnupiravir, the antiviral pill that Merck has developed with Ridge Biotherapeutics.
As the Catholic Social Thought teaches us: We must all consider the good of others, and the good of the whole human family, in organizing our society – economically, politically, and legally. Human Dignity can only be realized and protected through our relationship with society-at-large. We must love our neighbor, locally and globally, and prioritize the good of the human family over commercial interests.