Should hospitals be allowed to deport illegal immigrants? – UPDATED

Old Hospital Photo

On his ride back to Indiantown from a landscaping job one afternoon nearly a decade ago, Luis Alberto Jimenez’s destiny collided with the front end of a stolen van. The impact killed two passengers in the car he was in and landed the van’s drunken driver, Donald Flewellen, in prison for nearly 10 years on a DUI manslaughter charge.

The crash also left Jimenez, an illegal Guatemalan immigrant, with debilitating injuries and the cognitive ability of a fourth-grader.

Jimenez has become the center of a legal battle between the hospital that flew him back to Guatemala after spending more than $1 million on his care and Jimenez’s family members who say the hospital falsely imprisoned him and deported him so it would no longer have to pay to treat him. The case is at the forefront of national debates on health care and immigration…

Against objections from Montejo (Jimenez’ cousin) and his attorney – after two years – a judge eventually sided with Martin Memorial. Montejo filed an appeal, but less than a day later hospital officials took Jimenez to Guatemala on a chartered jet…

An appeals court in 2004 overturned Judge Fennelly’s decision, saying he had no jurisdiction to authorize the return…

Martin Memorial officials declined last week to comment on the specifics of the case. They said their situation reflects those of hospitals across the country.

“Unfortunately, the cost of providing that care is rising and the burden of paying the health care bill for many undocumented immigrants is falling on hospitals and health systems that simply cannot afford to pay it,” hospital communications director Ronda Wilburn said in an e-mail.

I don’t know of another country that spends so much time feeling guilty over the plight of those who enter the country illegally. Educating children, providing medical care, job assistance – in some jurisdictions, the needs of illegal migrant laborers seem to take precedence over American citizens, whether by birth or naturalization.

Should be an interesting case to follow.

UPDATE: The Jury found on behalf of the hospital.

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