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.
He can't use his legs, now has "routine violent seizures," and receives no medical care medication.
This is a serious and fairly widespread problem, apparently, and you can understand the very simple financial issues. But no matter where you come down on the issue of illegal immigration this should make you crazy. If hospital bill collectors can deport people, who can't do it? Landlords? A car shop?
And get this: The people they "repatriate" aren't always here illegally:
Other hospitals are more aggressive, routinely sending uninsured immigrants, both legal and illegal, back to their homelands. One Tucson hospital even tried to fly an American citizen, a sick baby whose parents were illegal immigrants, to Mexico last year; the police, summoned by a lawyer to the airport, blocked the flight. “It was horrendous,” the mother said.
Hey - maybe they'll do it to you someday, if you can't pay your bill.