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Illegal In America? Don’t Get Hurt

August 5, 2008

Immigrants Facing Deportation by U.S. Hospitals

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.

Josh Haner/The New York Times Luis Alberto Jiménez, an illegal immigrant injured in a car accident in Florida, was treated at a community hospital, which eventually sent him back to Guatemala. He spends most of his days inside a one-room house; only the presence of visitors, who can help him into his wheelchair, gives him the rare chance to get out of bed.

See the story: 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.

This is one of those life or death situations that challenge the system America has implemented.  This is the LOOPHOLE where the federal system allows medical profiteers to control. Because Americans are hopelessly divided about immigration, inequities will prevail.  American criminals get more humanitarian treatment than “illegals”.  The attitude that “illegals” don’t exist, therefore, don’t deserve consideration for healthcare, etc.  There is a disconnect here.  Some hateful Americans accept the surface of a story, then they are done with it, they accept that the victim got what he deserved … we should not have treated him for so long, anyway.  Fortunately, not all Americans are hateful.  The mind boggling solution to our immigration issue requires in depth and equitable study.  America’s Immigration Service has no authority for this situation. The INS has not been given the resources or authority to enforce equitably, because the laws are too broad and skewed toward controlling criminal/drug/terrorist “invasion”.  We seldom see in depth headlines addressing individual case by case issues, Hat Tip to NY Times and DEBORAH SONTAG for describing the personal element of disparity.  Broad brush strokes of American immigration policies miss too many poignent human stories. To catch a few, many must suffer. Again, the ‘baby with the bathwater’ story still applies.

The underground economy in America is flourishing as a result of Federal Policies.  The poor, disenfranchised, illegal immigrants and just un-insured Americans, are forced to seek medical assistance from un-licensed practitioners and shamans. This segment of America’s population is forced to roll the dice and pray the help they receive works.  They have no recourse … they are not covered by a fair and impartial justice or medical system.  They are the best target for con artists and criminals.  They are extorted into participating in crime as payback for any help they receive.  Best example, they are targets for shady tax practitioners, who use their Tax ID Numbers to forge tax returns.  The tax preparers get the bulk of the bogus refund (several thousand dollars) and leave the illegal to face the consequences from the IRS.

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