8/16/2012 12:00 PM ET|
Immigrants 'are taking our jobs'
An uninsured Texas Republican trades bigger paychecks for job security and hopes he can soon afford health care coverage for his family.
Port Arthur pipefitter Monty Janeaux
Monty Janeaux, a 54-year-old pipefitter in Port Arthur, Texas, has been working for 35 years. For about 15 of those years, he had health insurance.
During the other 20, "I just hoped to God I didn't get sick," he said.
Janeaux is by no means unique, particularly in a region where a lengthy career often consists of a series of short-term jobs, as it does at in the refinery work that dominates Port Arthur's economy.
"This is a big problem, and I can understand where Obama is coming from with this whole health care deal," Janeaux said. But, he said, unless the government can come up with a way to help people like him, who work for small businesses, he can't be supportive.
Though Janeaux used to work at the refineries, he now works for a small company in the marine industry. He earns less, but the job is permanent. He wanted some security. "I know if I go somewhere else, I might get laid off," he said.
But the company doesn't cover his family's health insurance premiums. He could buy into the group plan for about $300 a month. But Janeaux said he would not do so without covering his wife, too, and for both it would cost $700, a stretch for his budget.
He doesn't see how the Obama administration's health care plan, the Affordable Care Act, would help him. Janeaux's employer "is a die-hard Republican" who has said "no way" to following orders from the federal government to provide health insurance for his workers, Janeaux said. "He'd rather pay the penalty than pay more for insurance, than offer his guys insurance," he said.
Janeaux is also a Republican and says that in November he will vote for Mitt Romney.
First, he said, he objects to welfare. It's a common complaint among the working poor in this area, and Janeaux's story is illustrative of why.
After a layoff several years ago, Janeaux applied for $100 to $200 a month in food stamps, to help his family through the rough patch. But after factoring in his unemployment insurance and his assets -- a truck, some home equity -- the state said he and his wife had qualified for $16 a month in food stamps.
"That's nothing -- $16?" he said. It still stings, because he believes there are people who receive much more assistance who are able but unwilling to work.
"I totally believe in helping people," he said. But "when a working-class person needs assistance, they should be able to get it, too."
Janeaux also said President Barack Obama's support of gay marriage seemed a troubling ploy to win re-election. Gay marriage is just "totally wrong," he said.
Janeaux would also like to see tougher immigration laws. Located on the Gulf Coast, Port Arthur has a growing Hispanic population, and plenty of subcontractors hire immigrant labor, residents say. On one of Janeaux's jobs, nearly half his crew fled during an immigration raid, he said.
He understands and respects that illegal immigrants are working hard, trying to support their families. And he doesn't mind immigrants doing unskilled labor, in agriculture or in hotels. But, he said: "They are taking our jobs. . . . I'm trying to support my wife and my family, and I'm a skilled worker."
Janeaux married an immigrant, a woman he met while working on a job in Colombia. He explained that he moved her to the U.S. legally, a process that cost him thousands of dollars and years of paperwork.
"I feel anyone who wants to come live and work in this country should do it the legal way, like I did," he said.
His wife, who worked as a doctor in Colombia but is not licensed in the United States, now works part time as a home health aide, earning less than $8 an hour. But she will likely need to go full time so the couple can afford health insurance and have some disposable income, Janeaux said.
"So we can take a vacation or go to the lake," he said. "Just the things that people like to do."
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