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[Congressional Record: June 26, 2001 (Extensions)]
[Page E1216-E1217]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access []
                               speech of

                         HON. SOLOMON P. ORTIZ

                                of texas

                    in the house of representatives

                         Monday, June 25, 2001

  Mr. ORTIZ. Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague from Texas for 
organizing this Special Order to bring the attention of the House of 
Representatives to the state of health care--or lack thereof--along the 
Southwest Border of the United States.
  I represent a South Texas district that abuts the international 
border with Mexico. This part of the country is unique in so many ways, 
including the health needs and rampant poverty. Currently, the greatest 
health need in my district is the need for a comprehensive response to 
the rampant spread of tuberculosis in South Texas and elsewhere along 
the Southwest Border.
  Just today, the Centers for Disease Control announced that the rate 
of tuberculosis cases in Brownsville, Texas, is nearly five times the 
national rate.
  At least one doctor in the South Texas area has told me that there is 
a particularly frightening multiple-drug resistant form of tuberculosis 
that antibiotics just won't kill. I am told that this is spreading fast 
and is a nightmare for public health officials. It's an enormous 
problem. Cross-border dwellers, according to the medial community, are 
not good about following up on medical care and often do not finish 
drug therapies such as antibiotics. If you only take a little bit of 
antibiotics, it only takes care of a little bit of the problem and 
leaves the tuberculosis strong enough to come back again another day.
  I supported a resolution in the House that recognizes the importance 
of substantially increasing United States investment in international 
tuberculosis control in the Fiscal year 2002 foreign aid budget, which 
is what it will take to deal with the problem. This resolution also 
recognizes the importance of supporting and expanding domestic efforts 
to eliminate tuberculosis in the United States and calls on local, 
national and world leaders, including the President, to commit to 
putting an end to the worldwide tuberculosis epidemic.
  But as we all know, resolutions have no affect of law; they are 
merely words on paper on which all of us can agree. But the most 
fundamental job of Congress is to determine spending priorities, and we 
will not move forward on finding solutions to this problem without the 
full attention of Congress and other public policymakers.

[[Page E1217]]

  Our migration patterns, be they associated with economic 
circumstances, immigration between countries or just travel between 
countries, have made this challenge more significant. Today it is only 
tuberculosis, but that may not be the case tomorrow. This portends a 
real crisis for health care along the border if other simple or chronic 
diseases become resistant to medicine we have used so far to eradicate 
  Another unique problem to the border and South Texas is the issue of 
safe water to drink. Often the people who are low-income and who live 
in the colonias, the unincorporated neighborhoods that have sprung up 
around municipalities, have no running water to drink. Generally, they 
will drink unsafe, unhealthy water and they get sick from it. These are 
the people least likely to have any kind of health insurance and are 
usually not even aware of programs like Medicaid that provide the most 
basic help for them.
  Mr. Speaker, I would like to pay special tribute to two great women 
who have gone to great lengths to ensure that the patients who need 
medications for tuberculosis get them: Dr. Elena Marin of Su Clinica 
Familiar and Paula Gomez, the Executive Director of the Brownsville 
Community Health Center. They have been an excellent source of 
information to me and other Members of Congress who share an interest 
in matters relating to health care, and I am enormously grateful to 
them for their service to South Texas and the nation.
  I join my colleague Ciro Rodriguez in support of the ``Healthy 
Solutions for America's Hardworking Families'' agenda. No agenda can 
fix everything, but it takes steps to address some of the most 
egregious gaps in our nation's effort to help new immigrants and those 
who have lived here for a while along the U.S.-Mexico border.
  I thank my colleague from Texas, the Chairman of the Congressional 
Hispanic Caucus Task Force on Health, for his diligence in bringing 
these matters before the House of Representatives.