Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Border Patrol’s Total Encounters with Sick or Injured Aliens Is Unknown

It is unknown how often the Border Patrol refers sick or injured aliens not taken into custody to hospitals. Border Patrol officials said the agency does not track the total number of encounters with sick or injured
persons. What is known is how much the Department of Health and Human Services pays for care, subject to reimbursement from Homeland Security, for those already in Border Patrol custody. In fiscal year 2003,
the Department of Health and Human Services paid about $1.7 million in medical claims for people in Border Patrol custody, of which about $1.2 million was for hospital inpatient and outpatient expenses.
Data are also available on Border Patrol encounters with aliens that the agency categorized as rescues—that is, incidents in which death or serious injury would have occurred had Border Patrol agents not responded—but these data do not include all encounters with aliens who were referred to hospitals without first having been taken into custody. Our analysis of Border Patrol rescue data for the nine sectors on the U.S.-Mexican border shows that in fiscal year 2002 about 360 suspected undocumented aliens were rescued and referred to hospitals for care.27 Rescued aliens were referred to hospitals for a variety of medical reasons, including heat exposure, possible heart attack, injuries, and complications from pregnancy. Nearly half the referrals occurred in the Tucson Border Patrol sector, which covers most of Arizona.

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