NY TImes rails against deportation of Illegals


Immigrants Deported, by U.S. Hospitals


Published: August 3, 2008
JOLOMCÚ, Guatemala — High in the hills of Guatemala, shut inside the one-room house where he spends day and night on a twin bed beneath a seriously outdated calendar, Luis Alberto Jiménez has no idea of the legal battle that swirls around him in the lowlands of Florida.
Josh Haner/The New York Times

Shooing away flies and beaming at the tiny, toothless elderly mother who is his sole caregiver, Mr. Jiménez, a knit cap pulled tightly on his head, remains cheerily oblivious that he has come to represent the collision of two deeply flawed American systems, immigration and health care.

Eight years ago, Mr. Jiménez, 35, an illegal immigrant working as a gardener in Stuart, Fla., suffered devastating injuries in a car crash with a drunken Floridian. A community hospital saved his life, twice, and, after failing to find a rehabilitation center willing to accept an uninsured patient, kept him as a ward for years at a cost of $1.5 million.

What happened next set the stage for a continuing legal battle with nationwide repercussions: Mr. Jiménez was deported — not by the federal government but by the hospital, Martin Memorial. After winning a state court order that would later be declared invalid, Martin Memorial leased an air ambulance for $30,000 and “forcibly returned him to his home country,” as one hospital administrator described it.

Since being hoisted in his wheelchair up a steep slope to his remote home, Mr. Jiménez, who sustained a severe traumatic brain injury, has received no medical care or medication — just Alka-Seltzer and prayer, his 72-year-old mother said. Over the last year, his condition has deteriorated with routine violent seizures, each characterized by a fall, protracted convulsions, a loud gurgling, the vomiting of blood and, finally, a collapse into unconsciousness.

“Every time, he loses a little more of himself,” his mother, Petrona Gervacio Gaspar, said in Kanjobal, the Indian dialect that she speaks with an otherworldly squeak.

Mr. Jiménez’s benchmark case exposes a little-known but apparently widespread practice. Many American hospitals are taking it upon themselves to repatriate seriously injured or ill immigrants because they cannot find nursing homes willing to accept them without insurance. Medicaid does not cover long-term care for illegal immigrants, or for newly arrived legal immigrants, creating a quandary for hospitals, which are obligated by federal regulation to arrange post-hospital care for patients who need it.

American immigration authorities play no role in these private repatriations, carried out by ambulance, air ambulance and commercial plane. Most hospitals say that they do not conduct cross-border transfers until patients are medically stable and that they arrange to deliver them into a physician’s care in their homeland. But the hospitals are operating in a void, without governmental assistance or oversight, leaving ample room for legal and ethical transgressions on both sides of the border.

Indeed, some advocates for immigrants see these repatriations as a kind of international patient dumping, with ambulances taking patients in the wrong direction, away from first-world hospitals to less-adequate care, if any.

“Repatriation is pretty much a death sentence in some of these cases,” said Dr. Steven Larson, an expert on migrant health and an emergency room physician at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. “I’ve seen patients bundled onto the plane and out of the country, and once that person is out of sight, he’s out of mind.”


2 Responses

  1. Bill, your point is well taken that this illegal has absorbed a fortune in benefits. Had he been a homeless American, then we could go back to blaming the drunk driver for creating the burden.

    A more difficult situation is productive illegals with US born children — like the woman at http://www.newsobserver.com/news/immigration/story/1158853.html

    These people are here for the same reason our ancestors were here — they love America and its opportunity. I have no problem with sealing the borders and allowing no more in — but there has to be a better way to treat people who are here.

    And keep in mind this is all blamed on conservatives (and rightly so). Deportees have plenty of friends and relatives who vote and the Right has turned them away for a generation. Does anyone think Latinos will help make Florida a red state in 2008? This is why W wanted a guest worker program. Nothing takes the compassion out of Compassionate Conservative like immigration policy.

  2. How does the N Y Times justify their divergent views regarding American laws? They support throwing out the poison fruit derived from supposed illegal search/seizure, yet support legal remedies for a person who commits the crime of entering this country illegally. A Guatemalan enters this country illegally and spends five years in a hospital FREE is mistreated? REALLY? Please mistreat me that way! I spent $4000 dollars to COBRA my insurance for one year between jobs! A woman who enters this country illegally and has her child born on this side of the fence, and that child becomes a legal citizen? HOW?

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