The secret immigration police - Hospitals quietly deporting immigrants who cannot pay
Days after they were badly hurt in a car accident, Jacinto Cruz and Jose Rodriguez-Saldana lay unconscious in an Iowa hospital while the American health care system weighed what to do with the two immigrants from Mexico.
The men had health insurance from jobs at one of the nation’s largest pork producers. But neither had legal permission to live in the U.S., nor was it clear whether their insurance would pay for the long-term rehabilitation they needed.
So Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines took matters into its own hands: After consulting with the patients’ families, it quietly loaded the two comatose men onto a private jet that flew them back to Mexico, effectively deporting them without consulting any court or federal agency.
When the men awoke, they were more than 1,800 miles away in a hospital in Veracruz, on the Mexican Gulf Coast.
Hundreds of immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally have taken similar journeys through a little-known removal system run not by the federal government trying to enforce laws but by hospitals seeking to curb high costs. A recent report compiled by immigrant advocacy groups made a rare attempt to determine how many people are sent home, concluding that at least 600 immigrants were removed over a five-year period, though there were likely many more.
In interviews with immigrants, their families, attorneys and advocates, The Associated Press reviewed the obscure process known formally as “medical repatriation,” which allows hospitals to put patients on chartered international flights, often while they are still unconscious. Hospitals typically pay for the flights.
“The problem is it’s all taking place in this unregulated sort of a black hole … and there is no tracking,” said law professor Lori Nessel, director of the Center for Social Justice at Seton Hall Law School, which offers free legal representation to immigrants.
I highly recommend reading the whole thing.
As an immigrant myself, this disturbs me. I understand that someone has to pay the bills and that Hospitals cannot be expected to care for the uninsured indefinitely but to go from that point to being shipped back to your home country as a result seems almost inhumane.
This practice is shadier than you might even think. Although the excerpt above indicates the hospital sought the permission of the families before sending the two men back, further down it mentions that many hospitals merely only tell immigrants contact with their family has been made when it really hasn’t or, even worse, the families are almost coerced to take the immigrant back.
Also, as mentioned above, this is an unregulated area of immigration. The Department of Homeland Security and ICE have no control, oversight or say in any of the decisions or actions the hospitals take.
That must change. I’m not necessarily advocating this practice stop altogether, but if it is to continue there must be controls, accountability and oversight. You can’t just do these kind of underground deportations with no involvement from government whatsoever.