[News] U.S. Hospitals Deporting Unconscious Immigrants: Over 600 in Five Years

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Apr 24 13:26:16 EDT 2013

Apr 23, 2013 06:20 PM EDT

*U.S. Hospitals Deporting Unconscious Immigrants: Over 600 in Five Years*

By Erik Derr


Hundreds of undocumented immigrants have been deported from United 
States hospitals while they were unconscious, after health care 
providers decided it would cost too much to let them stay.

Two cases in point: Jacinto Cruz and Jose Rodriguez Saldana, who were 
recovering in Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines after both 
were seriously hurt in a car accident.

Before either of the men awoke, hospital staffers had them flown back to 
their native Mexico, because it wasn't certain the insurance coverage 
Cruz and Saldana had received from the pork manufacturing company where 
they worked covered the type of long-term care they would need.

The hospital indicated the families of the two men gave permission for 
the transfers, but the families themselves deny it.

Neither Cruz nor Saldana was in the U.S. legally.

When they awoke, the men were 1,800 miles and a border crossing away 
from the first hospital in Des Moines.

There are hundreds of cases like those of Cruz and Saldana, where 
undocumented hospital patients have been deported while unconscious, law 
professor Lori Nessel, director of the Center for Social Justice at 
Seton Hall Law School, was reported saying in a report by the Associated 

The federal government claims it's not involved in the hospital 
deportations, that it has been the decisions of the health care 
providers exclusively to send patients back to their home countries 
without their know --- all in the name of curbing medical expenses.

Called "medical repatriation," the patients are placed on chartered 
international flights paid for by the hospitals.

At least 600 immigrants, if not more, were deported over a five year 
period, Nessel said.

"The problem is, it's all taking place in this unregulated sort of a 
black hole," without any way of monitoring the practice, she said.

There's growing concern hospitals will expand the deportations after 
federal health care reforms kick in.

"It really is a Catch-22 for us," said Dr. Mark Purtle, vice president 
of Medical Affairs for Iowa Health System. "This is the area that the 
federal government, the state, everybody says we're not paying for the 

All hospitals are required to care for patients no matter if they are 
citizens or not, or if they have the ability to pay or not.

Those care requirements, however, change once a patient is stabilized.

Immigrant advocates say the practice violates U.S. and international 
law, unfairly targeting a defenseless population.

"They don't have advocates, and they don't have people who will speak on 
their behalf," asserted Miami attorney John De Leon.

Many hospitals say they in fact try contact immigration authorities when 
they have patients who don't have proper documentation, but most of 
those calls are ignored, leaving the car providers no other alternative 
other than resolving the problems themselves.

Meanwhile, the American Medical Association's Council on Ethical and 
Judicial Affairs back in 2009 told doctors not to let "hospital 
administrators to use their significant power and the lack of 
regulations to send patients to other countries."

But, when it's one against an entire hospital administration, and there 
aren't any legal protections in place, what's a doctor to do?

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