Immigration Reform 2013: U.S. Hospitals Have Deported Hundreds Of Sick Immigrants


Medical repatriation is a fancy word for sending undocumented patients back to their home country when they can no longer afford health care. In Des Moines, Iowa, this happened to two men who had recently been hurt in a car accident. Jacinto Cruz and Jose Rodriguez-Saldana both have health insurance under their employer. However, the Iowa Methodist Medical Center was not sure how long the two men would be covered for considering how badly injured they were.

The Iowa Methodist Medical Center (IMMC) took matters into their own hands and deported the men on a privately paid airplane without consulting any state or federal agency. The men were comatose during the journey from Iowa to Vera Cruz, Mexico.

This little-known removal system implemented by American hospitals has deported hundreds of migrants across borders. The Iowa Methodist Medical Center weighed their options and flew the two men out in an attempt to save money but in the process have separated families in this unregulated arrangement.

Hospitals are legally required to provide care regardless of status or ability to pay. Unfortunately, once the patient is stable, the hospital is no longer responsible for them. This will be much worse with the completion of health care reform, because it will lower payments from uninsured patients, thus giving hospitals more reason to do this. The hospitals' rationale in the matter is that they hope the patient can find care in their home country, although it is obvious they have made a home for themselves here in the United States.

In other words, Jacinto Cruz and Jose Rodriguez-Saldana were both comatose (but considered stabilized) and sent back to Mexico because the IMMC thought they would be taken care of in their home country. How does the hospital determine if the patient is stabilized? How can the hospital reconcile with the fact that they transferred patients to a different country with serious injuries simply because of a legal status?

No one knows how Cruz and Rodriguez-Saldana would have recovered if they had stayed in the United States. However, in the midst of immigration reform, how could this be resolved while keeping immigrant families intact? How can health care reform and immigration reform consider the obvious intersection between undocumented families who need medical care?

The hospital says they received consent from family members. Interestingly, when the Associated Press reached them for comment they denied giving consent to IMMC. Five years later, the two men are still recovering for their injuries. Cruz and Rodriguez-Saldana both have legal representation and plan to take action.

All information is from the Associated Press. Please follow @Cualania for updates on this particular case.