IN-DEPTH: California Hospitals Slammed as Illegal Immigration Costs Soar

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IN-DEPTH: California Hospitals Slammed as Illegal Immigration Costs Soar

Illegal immigrants who passed through a gap in the U.S. border wall await processing by Border Patrol agents in Jacumba, Calif., on Dec. 7, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Brad JonesJohn Fredricks

Brad Jones & John Fredricks

12/28/2023

Updated: 1/2/2024

Some hospitals in Southern California are struggling with an influx of illegal immigrants amid the border crisis, while American patients are enduring longer wait times for doctor appointments due to a nursing shortage in the state, according to two health care professionals.
A health care worker at a hospital in Southern California, who asked not to be named for fear of losing her job, told The Epoch Times that “the entire health care system is just being bombarded” by a steady stream of illegal migrants in recent years.
Some illegal immigrants get hurt crossing the desert or injured climbing the border wall, while others are injured in accidents, especially when too many occupants are packed into one vehicle, the health care worker said.
Severely injured illegal immigrants are often rescued by helicopter and flown to trauma centers in Southern California, she said.
“They’re falling off the wall,” she said. “They’re always flown. They’re never put in the back of an ambulance.”
With a typical helicopter rescue costing about $30,000, without factoring in the costs of medication and medical staff at the hospitals, “who pays for that?” she asked.
“Our health care system is so overwhelmed, and then add on top of that tuberculosis, COVID-19, and other diseases from all over the world,” she said.
Total U.S. apprehensions of illegal and inadmissible aliens in fiscal year 2023—from Oct. 1, 2022, to Sept. 30, 2023—were 3.2 million. In fiscal year 2022, it was more than 2.7 million. Counting “known gotaways”—those whom Border Patrol agents record but don’t catch—more than 8 million illegal immigrants have entered the country in less than three years under the Biden administration.
Illegal immigrants who passed through a gap in the U.S. border wall await processing by Border Patrol agents in Jacumba, Calif., on Dec. 7, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Illegal immigrants who passed through a gap in the U.S. border wall await processing by Border Patrol agents in Jacumba, Calif., on Dec. 7, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

A Mercy Air helicopter in Imperial, Calif., on Dec. 6, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

A Mercy Air helicopter in Imperial, Calif., on Dec. 6, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Language Barrier

Illegal immigrant patients are usually accompanied by sponsors who advocate for them, but language barriers still pose a problem for doctors and other hospital staff, the health care worker said.
“Not everybody can speak the languages of these patients,” she said. “That’s another burden.”
Hospitals need to hire either translators or staff who can speak all the languages of the patients crossing the border from dozens of different countries, she said.
“Of course, there’s nothing wrong with learning another language or having people that can accommodate their health care,” she said. “Nobody wants to see somebody in pain or hurting in need of medicine. But, at the same time, it’s at the expense of others.”
The “others,” she said, are American patients, as well as taxpayers who are ultimately footing the bill.
Patients often have their doctors’ appointments “pushed back” to accommodate the medical needs of illegal immigrants, the health care worker said.
“They get in a lot quicker than our Veterans Affairs [VA] and retired military patients. They get in a lot faster, and they get the best care—probably better care than the VA patients do,” she said.
Typically, VA patients usually wait months to be seen by a specialist, while illegal immigrants who just crossed the border are seen the same week, she said.
“I’ve seen that firsthand,” she said. “We hear it from VA patients all day, every day.”
When Border Patrol agents bring patients to the hospitals, there’s an “air of secrecy” that follows them.
“No one is allowed to talk to the media or public about why they are there or how they got there,” she said. “We keep them in this bubble of protection, which is the wrong approach. We should let the public know.”
The government is using “patient privacy” as a shield to hide what they’re doing.
“Patient privacy is a priority in the health care field, but when it comes to illegals, it’s branching off into elitism or a protected class,” she said.
Illegal immigrants captured by U.S. Border Patrol agents go through a processing center near San Diego on May 31, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Illegal immigrants captured by U.S. Border Patrol agents go through a processing center near San Diego on May 31, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

ICE Detention Facility

An experienced doctor in Southern California, who spoke to The Epoch Times on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, said the influx of illegal immigrants to San Diego and Imperial counties is “just outrageous” and that the burden of care on hospitals is “overwhelming.”
He also said he’s concerned about the secrecy surrounding nongovernment organizations that are being paid to provide services to illegal immigrants.
“Where’s the transparency?” he asked. “There’s been no transparency.”
The doctor said that in 2020, at the outset of the pandemic, he was involved in a planned government contract for COVID-19 testing but that it was canceled at the last minute.
“We started testing and treating patients, and then ... they kicked us out,” he said. “They said [our] contract [had] been terminated and replaced with some company that was from out of the area. So, they’re not even using local contractors ... which takes away money, resources, and jobs from our community.”
Amid a statewide shortage of primary care doctors and nurses, three nurse practitioners whom he trained at his practice were recruited with better pay and benefits to work at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in El Centro, California, he said.
“It’s a huge place, and so there are lots of resources being used at that facility. A lot of nurse practitioners are being pulled from us,” he said. “It’s really hard to get doctors out in our area, so we have a lot of nurse practitioners who help physicians in the community because they can see patients and prescribe medications.”
Increasingly, more patients are going to urgent care clinics because they can’t get in to see their primary care doctors, he said.
“There is a huge shortage of primary care in Imperial County,” he said. “Appointment times are weeks to months out.
“Border cities are having to deal with the influx without having the resources. When you take from the resources that are currently available, you’re depriving the community of those resources. The unintended result is it backs up the system.”
A hospital in Garden Grove, Calif., on Dec. 20. 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

A hospital in Garden Grove, Calif., on Dec. 20. 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Illegal immigrants pass through a gap in the U.S. border wall to await processing by Border Patrol agents in Jacumba, Calif., on Dec. 7, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Illegal immigrants pass through a gap in the U.S. border wall to await processing by Border Patrol agents in Jacumba, Calif., on Dec. 7, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Disease and Injuries

Tuberculosis (TB) patients, for example, can tie up hospital beds for months, depending on the severity of infection, the doctor said.
“You can’t let them out, because it’s a public health issue, so they’re staying in the hospital. We had a patient stay for six months for full treatment, and the government is paying for all of it,” he said. “TB in the United States is pretty much gone except for in isolated border towns, but the rates in Imperial County are higher than I’ve ever seen anywhere, because of the influx from illegal migration.”
According to the Harvard Medical School’s Center for Global Health Delivery, California’s Imperial County has reported an incidence of 38 TB cases per 100,000 people, nearly 10 times higher than the national average in the United States, while Mexicali, Mexico—just across the border—has an incidence of 100 cases per 100,000, one of the highest rates in North America.
The center also indicates that the number of TB cases is probably underreported, stating that “with more robust detection efforts, it’s likely that these rates would be much higher.”
Aside from TB and measles, sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea, syphilis, measles, and AIDS are on the rise, the doctor said.
“Very rarely do you see syphilis anymore, but cases have gone up,” he said.
Illegal immigrants also need treatment for injuries from lacerations from razor wire, the doctor said.
“They cut their hands and legs when they’re jumping the fence. They usually put a jacket or something over the razor wire, but sometimes, it comes through,” he said.
Because so many medical professionals and resources have been tapped to treat illegal immigrants, American patients, including military veterans, have been neglected, the doctor confirmed.
“It takes forever for these VA patients to get seen at the clinic. It takes months to get an appointment. There is very limited care for the veterans out here,” he said. “The VA program has been neglected as a result of having to put more money into funding for the ICE detention centers.”
Illegal immigrants from Afghanistan who passed through a gap in the U.S. border wall await processing by Border Patrol agents in Jacumba, Calif., on Dec. 6, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Illegal immigrants from Afghanistan who passed through a gap in the U.S. border wall await processing by Border Patrol agents in Jacumba, Calif., on Dec. 6, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

A border patrol agent listens to radio chatter near the border wall of San Diego on May 31, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

A border patrol agent listens to radio chatter near the border wall of San Diego on May 31, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Toll on Border Patrol Agents

The doctor, who also treats Border Patrol agents, said that agents’ job-related injuries “have gone through the roof.” He has also noticed an increase in the number of agents with mental health problems related to stress and anxiety.
Many agents say they’ve been taken out of the field to act as illegal immigrant processing clerks rather than doing what they were trained to do: patrol the border, he said.
“They’re really frustrated. They’re not being listened to. They’re not getting the resources they need. They feel like their hands are tied. And, they’re being silenced,” he said. “They’ve become processing agents, rather than really trying to catch the bad guys—the criminals and the drugs.”
The agents also witness the aftermath of heinous crimes, including the abuse and rape of women and girls at the hands of Mexican drug cartels.
“A lot of the girls coming across—there’s a good percentage of them who have been abused during the trek. We’ve seen a few of them. We’re talking young girls—12 years old, 13 years old—pregnant from the journey. It’s extremely sad,” he said. “And so that takes a toll ... kids coming up by themselves, unaccompanied minors. You can see the human trafficking side of all of this as well. It does happen quite frequently.”
Suicides among agents have also increased. In 2022, 14 agents took their own lives, more than in any other year since U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) began tracking these deaths.
“Working long hours and responding to high-stress situations, our men and women in green and blue are being pushed to their breaking point every single day,” U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzalez said in a Dec. 15, 2023, statement.
Between 2007 and 2022, CBP lost 149 people to suicide, which is “among the highest rates compared to other law enforcement agencies.”
Illegal immigrants who passed through a gap in the U.S. border wall await processing by Border Patrol agents in Jacumba, Calif., on Dec. 7, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Illegal immigrants who passed through a gap in the U.S. border wall await processing by Border Patrol agents in Jacumba, Calif., on Dec. 7, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Unvetted illegal immigrants prepare to be transported by bus to processing facilities in Yuma, Ariz., on May 18, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Unvetted illegal immigrants prepare to be transported by bus to processing facilities in Yuma, Ariz., on May 18, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Costs of Illegal Immigration

According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a nonprofit organization that pushes for changes in immigration policy, the cost of health care for illegal immigrants in California through Medi-Cal was approximately $4.8 billion per year in 2022.
FAIR estimated the total federal medical costs for illegal immigration at more than $23.1 billion in 2022 and pegged the costs to cover unpaid hospital bills for uninsured illegal migrants at about $8.2 billion.
The total cost of illegal immigration in California was about $22.8 billion annually for education, health care, law enforcement, criminal justice system costs, welfare, and other expenditures. By comparison, the annual cost of illegal immigration in Texas in 2022 was $9.9 billion. In California, the taxpayer cost per illegal immigrant in 2023 was $7,074, compared to $4,466 in Texas.
The FAIR study estimates that the gross cost of illegal immigration in the United States is $183 billion annually, an increase of more than 35.7 percent since 2017. The cost incurred for each illegal immigrant, including their U.S.-born children, has increased to $8,776 annually.
FAIR says its report covers “the full fiscal impact of illegal immigration” and “includes the contributions of illegal aliens to the economy.”
“These include tax payments made directly to state and local jurisdictions, the federal government, as well as excise, property, and sales taxes. However, these receipts fall far short of covering the expenses incurred due to illegal immigration. Taxes paid by illegal immigrants only covered around 17.2 percent of the costs they created for American citizens,” the report states.
When the taxes paid by illegal aliens are factored in, the net cost of illegal immigration to U.S. taxpayers is $150.7 billion, according to FAIR.
In June 2023, FAIR estimated that about 16.8 million illegal immigrants were living in the United States, an increase of 1.3 million since January 2022 and a 2.3 million increase since the end of 2020, indicating that the illegal immigrant population increased by 16 percent nationwide in the first 2 1/2 years of the Biden administration.
“Illegal immigration’s annual net burden on the economy, now more than $150 billion, is greater than the annual GDP output of 15 U.S. states,” FAIR stated.
Ira Mehlman, a FAIR spokesman, told The Epoch Times that on top of the staggering costs of illegal immigration—with 12,600 illegal immigrants crossing the border on Dec. 19, 2023, alone, the highest on record for a single day—the Biden administration is “playing Russian roulette with the safety and security of the American public.”
“They’re simply ignoring laws. The law explicitly says that if you were in the country illegally, you are subject to deportation, and Mayorkas has said no, just being in the country, in and of itself, is not sufficient to remove somebody,” he said. “We all expect that there will be some incompetence in government and maybe even neglect, but now what we’re seeing is overt sabotage of our immigration laws by people who were sworn to uphold those laws.”
At a press conference on Dec. 21, 2023, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre downplayed the border crisis, telling reporters that the record number of illegal immigrants at the southern border isn’t unusual.
“What we’re seeing here at the border, the migration flow, increased migration flows, certainly, it ebbs and flows,“ she said. “And we’re at a time of the year where we’re seeing more at the border, and it’s not unusual. This is an immigration system that has been broken for decades, and the president has taken this very seriously to try to do more.”
Federal agents place fencing to help curb illegal immigration surges at the U.S. border in Tijuana, Mexico, on May 11, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Federal agents place fencing to help curb illegal immigration surges at the U.S. border in Tijuana, Mexico, on May 11, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

A Veteran’s View

Robert Hammond, a cancer patient and former Marine in Santa Ana, California, who retired early from his job as a school teacher because of his health, told The Epoch Times that he was exposed to toxic chemicals in the water when he was stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
Mr. Hammond said he has seen doctor appointments for veterans, including his own, pushed back for months because of the border crisis.
He said he questions the Biden administration’s sense of priorities when it “coddles people who break our laws to come here, and gives them money, food, housing, clothing, [and] free medical,” but then “turns its back” on not only veterans but all American citizens.
“The people who are responsible for this are more interested in seeing us veterans die. That’s how I feel. They don’t want us because they know we won’t vote for them.” he said. “But the people who are coming in illegally, well, there’s a good chance that they’ll vote for them. We are disposable.”
The money spent on illegal immigrants should be used for better health care and cancer research to improve the quality of life of American citizens, he said.
Mr. Hammond said he’s also concerned about national security, considering the surge in suspected terrorists who have entered the country illegally during the border crisis.
John Fredricks

John Fredricks

Author

John Fredricks is a California-based journalist for The Epoch Times. His reportage and photojournalism features have been published in a variety of award-winning publications around the world.

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