Sunday, August 24, 2008

Homeland Security has Deported over 90,000 Children...

There is a cry throughout the land.

Dra. Valenzuel
a

Homeland Security has Deported over 90,000 Children

Dept. of Homeland Security has deported over 90,000 children under the age of 17 to Mexico without a parent or caregiver

By Marisa Trevino,
August 15, 2008
 

It goes without saying that the saddest element in the current enforcement of immigration laws is the apprehension, deportation or abandonment of children.
 
Stories surface every day of parents who were apprehended and fearing the same for their children, say nothing about their children at home. They hope a relative or neighbor will eventually realize their children are alone and will take care of them until they can be reunited.

A Mexican state policeman asks the names of two children who were deported from the United States to Nogales, Sonora.
(Source: La Jornada)
 
According to a new report released this week in Mexico City by the Population, Border and Migrant Affairs Commission, for every three adults deported from the United States there is one child abandoned and left behind.
 
But what is even more shocking and deserves further scrutiny from Congress and the American people is the documentation in the report that cites how in the first 7 months of the year the United States has deported 90,000 children to Mexico - children without their parents and who are alone.

 
The U.S. government has elected to disregard the safety and welfare of these children in the name of immigration enforcement.
 
The Mexican report revealed that 15 percent or 13,500 of these children, of all ages under 17, find themselves 'parked' at the border. With no family and no way to take care of themselves. Some are either taken in by social service and religious agencies or are forced to live on the streets begging and trying with all their might to get back into the United States, or worse, are victimized by human traffickers who sexually exploit them.
 
The report further revealed that these child deportations are having a huge impact on those sectors of the country experiencing high migration and the Mexican government reveals it's ill-equipped to keep up with the growing number of children dumped by the U.S. government.
 
The report's authors are calling on the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. government to honor children's rights and to repatriate the children versus deporting them. With repatriation, the children are not left abandoned but are returned into the custody of those responsible to take care of them.
 
Deportations merely drop them off without ensuring their safety.
 
While this report highlights the shortfalls of the Mexican government in providing substantial care for these children upon their arrival, at the same time it does not exonerate the actions of the U.S. government.
 
For that reason, child deportations should be halted until a full and consistent repatriation program can be implemented where children are delivered to family members or reunited with family in the United States.

Friday, August 22, 2008

What an undocumented immigrant can do... inspiring!

Wow! Very inspiring. -Dra. Valenzuela

From the Los Angeles Times
BILL PLASCHKE
The son of illegal immigrants, American wrestler hoists his flag with pride
Henry Cejudo had a ragged upbringing. Now he has a gold medal in the
55 kilogram freestyle.
Bill Plaschke

August 20, 2008

BEIJING ˜ He has shared everything for most of his scuffled life, from
twin beds to sofa cushions to last bites.

It only made sense, then, that when he stunningly won an Olympic gold
medal in freestyle wrestling Tuesday, the Los Angeles-born son of
undocumented Mexican immigrants would also share.

With his most beloved piece of cloth.

The American flag.

Oh, what a pair they made, young Henry Cejudo and Old Glory, dancing
cloth-to-cheek across the floor of a gym that rocked and roared in
disbelief.

That flag gave a chance to a kid who paid for wrestling by selling
tamales on the street. That kid now held it tight as he dropped to the
mat and dissolved in tears.

"I'm living the American dream," said Cejudo, 21. "The
United States
is the land of opportunity, and I'm so glad I can represent it."

The flag gave his mother a chance to raise six children on menial
wages in countless apartments from Los Angeles to Las Cruces, N.M., to
Phoenix. The son now flapped it across his back like a cape, as if
showing the world how it had enabled him to fly.

"The U.S.A. is the best country in the world because it allows you to
express yourself in whatever you can do best," said his brother
Alonzo, watching from the stands. "Wrestling is just Henry's
way."

That flag gave a high school education to a kid too poor to celebrate
Christmas, then gave that kid a chance to become an Olympian even
after he finished 31st in last year's world championships. The kid now
wore the flag around the gym like an expensive new coat, and later
refused to take it off.

"I don't want to let it go, man," Cejudo said about an hour after
his
55-kg victory over Japan's Tomohiro Matsunaga. "I might just sleep
with this."

The tiny, bushy-haired champion smiled a huge smile, his face a
strange mixture of tears and welts and happiness, and it was then he
was reminded America had one more thing to give him.

For winning the gold medal, he will be awarded bonuses and donations
equaling $65,000.

"I'm rich!" he screamed.

No, it was the rest of us who were rich, witnessing a moment that
could only happen at the Olympics and, yes, perhaps only in America.

"This is unreal," said Frank Saenz, his Phoenix-area high school
coach
who was weeping with others in the stands. "Such a big country . . .
how does this happen?"

How, indeed? Born in 1987 in South Los Angeles to two undocumented
Mexican immigrants, Cejudo faced the same long odds encountered by
thousands in his neighborhood.

When he was 4, his parents separated and his mother moved his family
to New Mexico. Two years later, his single mom moved the family to
Phoenix.

With only one couch in his living room, and at least one or two
siblings in his bed until he was 17, there wasn't much.

"So we took off the couch cushions and used them to fight," said
Alonzo, Cejudo's brother. "We were like 'American Gladiators.'
"

Soon the fighting moved to the gym, where Cejudo and his older brother
Angel became high school stars.

When Angel moved to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado
Springs, Colo., Henry followed, even though he was just a high school
junior at the time. It immediately provided him the one thing he
thought he had been missing.

"I finally had my own bed," he said. "But I was lonely in
it."

His father died of heart failure in Mexico City after a long battle
with drugs, and Henry couldn't make it to the funeral. He won
championships while still in high school, but matured slowly after
that, and there were times it seemed he would fail his potential.

"He could be in prison, he could be a drug dealer, he could be a lot
of things," said his coach, Terry Brands.

But an Olympic champion?

"Nobody believed but us," Angel said.

He was knocked out of the first round of last year's world
championships, weeping in defeat.

He needed a late comeback to win the Olympic trials. He needed to drop
10 pounds just to make weight Tuesday.

Then, once his long wrestling day began, he needed to come back to win
all three of his preliminary matches.

By the time he reached the finals, he was a little tired, a little
sad, but plenty inspired.

His mother, Nelly Rico, was not in the Beijing Agricultural University
Gymnasium stands, because she does not have a passport.

"If you ask my mom, she will tell you she is American," he said,
later
adding, "This gold medal is hers."

A collection of family and friends did show up, and with such vigor,
they were nearly ejected. During his match, the Cejudo clan refused to
sit down despite repeated admonitions from frustrated security people.

"We didn't want to get thrown out but, if your little bro is down
there, what are you going to do?" Alonzo said. "After a while, [the
guard] just got tired of it."

Down on the mat, Cejudo was tired of messing around. He immediately
attacked Matsunaga's legs and pushed him around the mat, scoring
enough to win each of the first two rounds in the best-of-three
format, giving him the victory.

After which, Cejudo immediately began crying and looking for that
flag, taking it back to the mat for what will become not only the
signature celebration of his career, but perhaps of these entire
Olympics.

"The United States is the kind of place where you can choose your own
path," he said. "We should never forget that."

Henry Cejudo's path -- slippery and scrabbled and wonderfully
star-spangled -- perhaps ensures that we won't.

Bill Plaschke can be reached at bill.plaschke@latimes.com. To read
previous columns by Plaschke, go to latimes.com/plaschke.






Copyright 2008 Los Angeles Times

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Ill and in Pain, Detainee Dies in U.S. Hands

This is sickening. How many decent people are suffering at the hands of immigration authorities?

Dra. Valenzuela



August 13, 2008

By NINA BERNSTEIN
He was 17 when he came to New York from Hong Kong in 1992 with his parents and younger sister, eyeing the skyline like any newcomer. Fifteen years later, Hiu Lui Ng was a New Yorker: a computer engineer with a job in the Empire State Building, a house in Queens, a wife who is a United States citizen and two American-born sons.

But when Mr. Ng, who had overstayed a visa years earlier, went to immigration headquarters in Manhattan last summer for his final interview for a green card, he was swept into immigration detention and shuttled through jails and detention centers in three New England states.

In April, Mr. Ng began complaining of excruciating back pain. By mid-July, he could no longer walk or stand. And last Wednesday, two days after his 34th birthday, he died in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in a Rhode Island hospital, his spine fractured and his body riddled with cancer that had gone undiagnosed and untreated for months.

On Tuesday, with an autopsy by the Rhode Island medical examiner under way, his lawyers demanded a criminal investigation in a letter to federal and state prosecutors in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont, and the Department of Homeland Security, which runs the detention system.

Mr. Ng’s death follows a succession of cases that have drawn Congressional scrutiny to complaints of inadequate medical care, human rights violations and a lack of oversight in immigration detention, a rapidly growing network of publicly and privately run jails where the government held more than 300,000 people in the last year while deciding whether to deport them.

In federal court affidavits, Mr. Ng’s lawyers contend that when he complained of severe pain that did not respond to analgesics, and grew too weak to walk or even stand to call his family from a detention pay phone, officials accused him of faking his condition. They denied him a wheelchair and refused pleas for an independent medical evaluation.

Instead, the affidavits say, guards at the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, R.I., dragged him from his bed on July 30, carried him in shackles to a car, bruising his arms and legs, and drove him two hours to a federal lockup in Hartford, where an immigration officer pressured him to withdraw all pending appeals of his case and accept deportation.

“For this desperately sick, vulnerable person, this was torture,” said Theodore N. Cox, one of Mr. Ng’s lawyers, adding that they want to see a videotape of the transport made by guards.

Immigration and detention officials would not discuss the case, saying the matter was under internal investigation. But in response to a relative of Mr. Ng’s who had begged that he be checked for a spinal injury or fractures, the Wyatt detention center’s director of nursing, Ben Candelaria, replied in a July 16 e-mail message that Mr. Ng was receiving appropriate care for “chronic back pain.” He added, “We treat each and every detainee in our custody with the same high level of quality, professional care possible.”

Officials have given no explanation why they took Mr. Ng to Hartford and back on the same day. But the lawyers say the grueling July 30 trip appeared to be an effort to prove that Mr. Ng was faking illness, and possibly to thwart the habeas corpus petition they had filed in Rhode Island the day before, seeking his release for medical treatment.

The federal judge who heard that petition on July 31 did not make a ruling, but in an unusual move insisted that Mr. Ng get the care he needed. On Aug. 1, Mr. Ng was taken to a hospital, where doctors found he had terminal cancer and a fractured spine. He died five days later.

The accounts of Mr. Ng’s treatment echo other cases that have prompted legislation, now before the House Judiciary Committee, to set mandatory standards for care in immigration detention.

In March, the federal government admitted medical negligence in the death of Francisco Castaneda, 36, a Salvadoran whose cancer went undiagnosed in a California detention center as he was repeatedly denied a biopsy on a painful penile lesion. In May, The New York Times chronicled the death of Boubacar Bah, 52, a Guinean tailor who suffered a skull fracture and brain hemorrhages in the Elizabeth Detention Center in New Jersey; records show he was left in an isolation cell without treatment for more than 13 hours.

When Mr. Ng died last week, he had spent half his life in the United States, his sister, Wendy Zhao, said in a tearful interview.

Born in China, he entered the United States legally on a tourist visa. Mr. Ng stayed on after it expired and applied for political asylum. He was granted a work permit while his application was pending, and though asylum was eventually denied, immigration authorities did not seek his deportation for many years.

Meanwhile, his sister said, Mr. Ng (pronounced Eng), who was known as Jason, graduated from high school in Long Island City, Queens, worked his way through community technical college, passed Microsoft training courses and won a contract to provide computer services to a company with offices in the Empire State Building.

In 2001, a notice ordering him to appear in immigration court was mistakenly sent to a nonexistent address, records show. When Mr. Ng did not show up at the hearing, the judge ordered him deported. By then, however, he was getting married, and on a separate track, his wife petitioned Citizenship and Immigration Services for a green card for him — a process that took more than five years. Heeding bad legal advice, the couple showed up for his green card interview on July 19, 2007, only to find enforcement agents waiting to arrest Mr. Ng on the old deportation order.

Over the next year, while his family struggled to pay for new lawyers to wage a complicated and expensive legal battle, Mr. Ng was held in jails under contract to the federal immigration authorities: Wyatt; the House of Correction in Greenfield, Mass.; and the Franklin County Jail in St. Albans, Vt.

Mr. Ng seemed healthy until April, his sister said, when he began to complain of severe back pain and skin so itchy he could not sleep. He was then in the Vermont jail, a 20-bed detention center with no medical staff run by the county sheriff’s office. Seeking care, he asked to be transferred back to Wyatt, a 700-bed center with its own medical staff, owned and operated by a municipal corporation.

In a letter to his sister, Mr. Ng recounted arriving there on July 3, spending the first three days in pain in a dark isolation cell. Later he was assigned an upper bunk and required to climb up and down at least three times a day for head counts, causing terrible pain. His brother-in-law B. Zhao appealed for help in e-mail messages to the warden, Wayne Salisbury, on July 11 and 16.

“I was really heartbroken when I first saw him,” Mr. Zhao wrote Mr. Salisbury after a visit. “After almost two weeks of suffering with unbearable back pain and unable to get any sleep, he was so weak and looked horrible.”

The nursing director replied that Mr. Ng had been granted a bottom bunk and was receiving painkillers and muscle relaxants prescribed by a detention center doctor.

But his condition continued to deteriorate. Once a robust man who stood nearly six feet and weighed 200 pounds, his relatives said, Mr. Ng looked like a shrunken and jaundiced 80-year-old.

“He said, ‘I told the nursing department, I’m in pain, but they don’t believe me,’ ” his sister recalled. “ ‘They tell me, stop faking.’ ”

Soon, according to court papers, he had to rely on other detainees to help him reach the toilet, bring him food and call his family; he no longer received painkillers, because he could not stand in line to collect them. On July 26, Andy Wong, a lawyer associated with Mr. Cox, came to see the detainee, but had to leave without talking to him, he said, because Mr. Ng was too weak to walk to the visiting area, and a wheelchair was denied.

On July 30, according to an affidavit by Mr. Wong, he was contacted by Larry Smith, a deportation officer in Hartford, who told him on a speakerphone, with Mr. Ng present, that he wanted to resolve the case, either by deporting Mr. Ng, or “releasing him to the streets.” Officer Smith said that no exam by an outside doctor would be allowed, and that Mr. Ng would not be given a wheelchair.

Mr. Ng told his lawyer he was ready to give up, the affidavit said, “because he could no longer withstand the suffering inside the facility,” but Officer Smith insisted that Mr. Ng would first have to withdraw all his appeals.

The account of his treatment clearly disturbed the federal judge, William E. Smith of United States District Court in Providence, who instructed the government’s lawyer the next day to have the warden get Mr. Ng to the hospital for an M.R.I.

The results were grim: cancer in his liver, lungs and bones, and a fractured spine. “ ‘I don’t have much time to live,’ ” his sister said he told her in a call from Rhode Island Hospital in Providence.

She said the doctor warned that if the family came to visit, immigration authorities might transfer her brother. Three days passed before the warden approved a family visit, she said, after demanding their Social Security numbers. Late in the afternoon of Aug. 5, as Mr. Ng lay on a gurney, hours away from death and still under guard, she and his wife held up his sons, 3 and 1.

“Brother, don’t worry, don’t be afraid,” Ms. Zhao said, repeating her last words to him. “They are not going to send you back to the facility again. Brother, you are free now.”


Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

Olympics Expose the Total Hypocrisy of U.S. Immigration Laws

By Sally Kohn, Movement Vision Lab
Posted on August 11, 2008, Printed on August 12, 2008

I have to confess I've never really cared about the Olympics. Since I'm not much for sports or raw nationalism, the fusion of the two doesn't really get me up in the morning. But I will tune in tonight to watch Lopez Lomong -- Sudanese "Lost Boy" turned U.S. track star -- carry the American flag in the opening ceremonies. I'm sure I'll have a tear in my eye, but also a twinge in my stomach for the profound irony of the moment. Some might even call it hypocrisy.

For here we are in the United States, where though the price of gas is skyrocketing, there seems to be endless fuel to feed the fires of anti-immigrant sentiment. But the Olympics are different, I guess. Is it the same with professional sports? Or the governorship of California? We don't like immigrants in low-wage jobs that none of us citizens want to do, but we don't mind immigrants in the exceptionally high-paying jobs that American-born citizens can only dream of?

What's the point complaining about an undocumented Mexican making $5 an hour in a chicken processing plant, who lost two of his fingers because of unsafe conditions and labor violations? Shouldn't we be more upset about Yao Ming making $15 million a year, plus endorsements?

Ah, but in America, we have a long and proud tradition of picking on the little guy. We also have a proud tradition of taking half-hearted moral stands. (Remember the Southern Compromise, anyone? Our continuing tolerance of segregation after abolition? Or the Bush Administration's rejection of nation-building ... ?) Why bother standing up for what's right when we can just talk about what we know is right but then just keep doing what we've always done.

Of course I don't want the anti-immigrant hate spewers to wizen up to their inconsistencies and expel the 33 immigrants on the U.S. Olympic team this year, let alone a vast number of our nation's doctors, nurses, engineers -- and one governor. But on the other hand, it would be refreshing if the anti-immigrant fanatics would just level with us -- and chant "Run home immigrant" at Lopez Lomong during his 1500 meter dash, as opposed to just chanting at the far less fortunate and far more desperate undocumented migrants who are just trying to get to work to make a day's pay. After all, factory workers and maids and farmworkers are easy targets. Let's see the anti-immigrant folks really test their theories and tirades by attacking people Americans really care about.

Because while Lou Dobbs and others will say it's just undocumented immigrants they mean to attack, it's not true. Accusations against undocumented immigrants also stick to legal immigrants and naturalized citizens, especially those from Latin America -- because we don't make much distinction between undocumented Latino immigrants working crappy jobs for crappy wages and permanent resident or naturalized Latino immigrants working crappy jobs for crappy wages. When Pat Buchanan says on Fox News, "You've got a wholesale invasion, the greatest invasion in human history, coming across your southern border, changing the composition and character of your country," he's not exactly distinguishing, is he?

And attacks against undocumented immigrants promote attacks against all immigrants. Recall after September 11th how Bush Administration rhetoric against "Muslim terrorists" led to a rise in hate crimes against Muslim and Arab gas station attendants, taxi cab drivers and other law-abiding immigrants and citizens. Lopez Lomong and Yao Ming had better stay alert.

In our two-tiered America -- with a persistent and wide gulf between the rich and the poor, those with power and those who are struggling, those who have every opportunity in life and those who have none -- is it any wonder we have a two-tiered take on immigration? In an America where we forgive Lindsay Lohan for repeated cocaine abuse but throw the book at poor African American men for even the most minor offenses, in an America where we give huge tax breaks to Wal-Mart and Exxon but refuse to raise funding for food stamps, is it any wonder we attack low-wage undocumented workers at the bottom of our society while celebrating immigrant athletes at the top?

You might be thinking, "But Lopez Lomong had a talent. He was a gifted runner and because of that our country rescued him from the violence and poverty of the Sudan." That's right. We're America. We give everyone a chance. Tonight we'll be celebrating what Lomong made of his opportunity. But let's not forget all the immigrants that we're denying an opportunity to.

Sally Kohn is the director of the Movement Vision Project of the Center for Community Change, which is interviewing hundreds of activists across the country to determine the progressive vision for the future of the United States.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Immigrants Facing Deportation by U.S. Hospitals

August 3, 2008
Immigrants Facing Deportation by U.S. Hospitals
By DEBORAH SONTAG
JOLOMCÚ, Guatemala - High in the hills of Guatemala, shut inside the one-room house where he spends day and night on a twin bed beneath a seriously outdated calendar, Luis Alberto Jiménez has no idea of the legal battle that swirls around him in the lowlands of Florida.
Shooing away flies and beaming at the tiny, toothless elderly mother who is his sole caregiver, Mr. Jiménez, a knit cap pulled tightly on his head, remains cheerily oblivious that he has come to represent the collision of two deeply flawed American systems, immigration and health care.
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.
Since being hoisted in his wheelchair up a steep slope to his remote home, Mr. Jiménez, who sustained a severe traumatic brain injury, has received no medical care or medication - just Alka-Seltzer and prayer, his 72-year-old mother said. Over the last year, his condition has deteriorated with routine violent seizures, each characterized by a fall, protracted convulsions, a loud gurgling, the vomiting of blood and, finally, a collapse into unconsciousness.
"Every time, he loses a little more of himself," his mother, Petrona Gervacio Gaspar, said in Kanjobal, the Indian dialect that she speaks with an otherworldly squeak.
Mr. Jiménez's benchmark case exposes a little-known but apparently widespread practice. Many American hospitals are taking it upon themselves to repatriate seriously injured or ill immigrants because they cannot find nursing homes willing to accept them without insurance. Medicaid does not cover long-term care for illegal immigrants, or for newly arrived legal immigrants, creating a quandary for hospitals, which are obligated by federal regulation to arrange post-hospital care for patients who need it.
American immigration authorities play no role in these private repatriations, carried out by ambulance, air ambulance and commercial plane. Most hospitals say that they do not conduct cross-border transfers until patients are medically stable and that they arrange to deliver them into a physician's care in their homeland. But the hospitals are operating in a void, without governmental assistance or oversight, leaving ample room for legal and ethical transgressions on both sides of the border.
Indeed, some advocates for immigrants see these repatriations as a kind of international patient dumping, with ambulances taking patients in the wrong direction, away from first-world hospitals to less-adequate care, if any.
"Repatriation is pretty much a death sentence in some of these cases," said Dr. Steven Larson, an expert on migrant health and an emergency room physician at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. "I've seen patients bundled onto the plane and out of the country, and once that person is out of sight, he's out of mind."
Hospital administrators view these cases as costly, burdensome patient transfers that force them to shoulder responsibility for the dysfunctional immigration and health-care systems. In many cases, they say, the only alternative to repatriations is keeping patients indefinitely in acute-care hospitals.
"What that does for us, it puts a strain on our system, where we're unable to provide adequate care for our own citizens," said Alan B. Kelly, vice president of Scottsdale Healthcare in Arizona. "A full bed is a full bed."
Medical repatriations are happening with varying frequency, and varying degrees of patient consent, from state to state and hospital to hospital. No government agency or advocacy group keeps track of these cases, and it is difficult to quantify them.
A few hospitals and consulates offered statistics that provide snapshots of the phenomenon: some 96 immigrants a year repatriated by St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix; 6 to 8 patients a year flown to their homelands from Broward General Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; 10 returned to Honduras from Chicago hospitals since early 2007; some 87 medical cases involving Mexican immigrants - and 265 involving people injured crossing the border - handled by the Mexican consulate in San Diego last year, most but not all of which ended in repatriation.
Over all, there is enough traffic to sustain at least one repatriation company, founded six years ago to service this niche - MexCare, based in California but operating nationwide with a "network of 28 hospitals and treatment centers" in Latin America. It bills itself as "an alternative choice for the care of the unfunded Latin American nationals," promising "significant saving to U.S. hospitals" seeking "to alleviate the financial burden of unpaid services."
Many hospitals engage in repatriations of seriously injured and ill immigrants only as a last resort. "We've done flights to Lithuania, Poland, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico," said Cara Pacione, director of social work at Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago. "But out of about a dozen cases a year, we probably fly only a couple back."
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.
Sister Margaret McBride, vice president for mission services at St. Joseph's in Phoenix, which is part of Catholic Healthcare West, said families were rarely happy about the hospital's decision to repatriate their relatives. But, she added, "We don't require consent from the family."
In a case this spring that outraged Phoenix's Hispanic community, St. Joseph's planned to send a comatose, uninsured legal immigrant back to Honduras, until community leaders got lawyers involved. While they were negotiating with the hospital, the patient, Sonia del Cid Iscoa, 34, who has been in the United States for half her life and has seven American-born children, came out of her coma. She is now back in her Phoenix home.
"I can think of three different scenarios that would have led to a fatal outcome if they had moved her," John M. Curtin, her lawyer, said. "The good outcome today is due to the treatment that the hospital provided - reluctantly, and, sadly enough, only in response to legal and public pressure."
Unlike Ms. Iscoa and Mr. Jiménez, most uninsured immigrant patients in repatriation cases do not have advocates fighting for them, and they are quietly returned to their home countries. Sometimes, their families accept that fate because they are told they have no options; sometimes they are grateful to the hospital for paying their fare home, given that other hospitals leave it to relatives or consulates to assume responsibility for the patients.
Mr. Jiménez's case is apparently the first to test the legality of cross-border patient transfers that are undertaken without the consent of the patients or their guardians - and the liability of the hospitals who undertake them.
"We're the rhesus monkey on this issue," said Scott Samples, a spokesman for Martin Memorial.
A Life-Changing Accident
Mr. Jiménez's journey north was propelled by the usual migrant's dreams. When he pledged thousands of dollars to pay the smuggler who delivered him to the United States, he envisioned years of labor on the lawns of affluent America and then a payoff: the means to buy land of his own, to cultivate his own garden, back in Guatemala.
But fate - in the person of Donald Flewellen, a pipe welder with a drug problem and a long criminal record - intervened. At lunchtime on Feb. 28, 2000, Mr. Flewellen was loitering in the parking lot of a Publix supermarket in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., when the employees of an irrigation company ran inside, leaving the keys in their van. Seizing the moment, Mr. Flewellen, a thorn in the side of local prosecutors with at least 14 arrests, jumped into the van and drove off.
In the next few hours, Mr. Flewellen consumed enough alcohol to produce a blood-alcohol level four times higher than the legal limit. But drive he did, along the back roads that connect the affluent Treasure Coast to the agricultural interior where Guatemalan Mayan immigrants have settled in a place, coincidentally, called Indiantown.
About 4 p.m., Mr. Flewellen was heading east on a rural road just as Mr. Jiménez and three compatriots were returning home from a day of landscaping. His stolen van and their 1988 Chevrolet Beretta crashed head-on, instantly killing two of the Guatemalans and severely injuring the driver and Mr. Jiménez, a back-seat passenger.
Identified first as John Doe, Mr. Jiménez arrived by ambulance at Martin Memorial, a not-for-profit hospital on the banks of the St. Lucie River in Stuart. He was unconscious and in shock from extensive bleeding, with two broken thigh bones, a broken arm, multiple internal injuries, a terribly lacerated face and a severe head injury. A doctor noted his prognosis as "poor."
But Mr. Jiménez, after intensive surgical and medical intervention, survived. "He was no longer Luis; he was another person," Montejo Gaspar Montejo, his cousin by marriage, said, describing a previously husky and industrious laborer who was also a soccer enthusiast. "He didn't talk. He didn't understand anything. He stayed curled up in a ball. But he was alive."
During that time, Martin Memorial asked Michael R. Banks, a local lawyer who specializes in estate planning, to set up a guardianship for Mr. Jiménez. "I said, 'Sure, what can come of such a case?' " Mr. Banks said. "Then it took on a life of its own. They probably regret they ever called me."
Mr. Jiménez, whose common-law wife and two children remained in Guatemala, had been living for just under a year with Mr. Gaspar's family. Mr. Gaspar, who works in golf-course maintenance, agreed to serve as guardian.
At first, things were amicable. In the summer of 2000, Mr. Jiménez was transferred to a nursing home in Stuart, which may have accepted him because an insurance payout was possible.
Mr. Flewellen, who eventually pleaded guilty to D.U.I. manslaughter, D.U.I. injury and grand theft auto, was not insured. But the Guatemalan families sought to hold the irrigation company liable since its employees left the keys in the car. Their lawsuit ultimately failed.
In the nursing home, Mr. Jiménez began wasting away. His relatives grew anxious. Then, Robert L. Lord Jr., Martin Memorial's vice president of legal services, said, "Mr. Jiménez was put back on our doorstep."
He arrived by ambulance, this time emaciated and suffering from ulcerous bed sores so deep that the tendons behind his knees were exposed. With infection raging, "the question to be answered is if the patient's condition is terminal," a doctor wrote in his file.
Again, Martin Memorial's doctors provided life-saving care. Hospitals are mandated to treat and stabilize anyone suffering from an emergency medical condition, and the federal government does provide emergency Medicaid coverage for illegal and new immigrants.
But hospitals say that emergency Medicaid covers only a small fraction of those expenses: $80,000 in Mr. Jiménez's case, according to court papers.
Mr. Jiménez remained in a vegetative state, coiled in a fetal position, for "one year, two months and 15 days," Mr. Gaspar said with precision.
Stunning his relatives and medical officials, though, Mr. Jiménez gradually woke up and started interacting with the world. "One day," Mr. Gaspar said in Spanish, "we arrived for a visit, and he said to me, 'You are Montejo.' "
Not long afterward, the battle began between Martin Memorial and Mr. Gaspar, a reserved man whose Indiantown living room is decorated with a "We Love America" clock, a beach towel from the ancient city of Tikal and a hammered metal image of the Virgin Mary.
A Hospital's Dilemma
The average stay at Martin Memorial, a relatively tranquil hospital which features a palm frond design in its gleaming lobby floor and white-coiffed volunteers in its gift shop, is 4.1 days and costs $8,188. Patients rarely linger.
Those like Mr. Jiménez who outstay their welcome are an oddity but not an anomaly. Mr. Jiménez had a roommate from Jamaica, a diabetic who lost both legs. Martin Memorial eventually flew him back to his native country, too.
In addition to trauma patients, there are uninsured immigrants with serious health problems. "In our emergency room, we don't turn anyone away," said Carol Plato Nicosia, the director of corporate business services. "The real problem is if we find an underlying problem, and now we have six of them - six patients who showed up in renal failure and that we are now seeing three times a week for dialysis."
One of the six, she said, voluntarily returned to Guatemala after receiving a poor prognosis. But she showed up at Martin Memorial again after her relatives insisted that she undertake the trek over the borders a second time because she could not get treatment in Guatemala, Ms. Plato Nicosia said.
"I don't want to sound heartless," Ms. Plato Nicosia said. "A community hospital is going to give care. But is it the right thing? We have a lot of American citizens who need our help. We only make about 3 percent over our bottom line if we're lucky. We need to make capital improvements and do things for our community."
Martin Memorial reported a total margin of 3.6 percent over its bottom line last year and 6 percent in 2006. According to the most recent statewide data, the nonprofit medical center also reported assets of $270.6 million in 2006, with its senior executives earning more than $4 million in salaries and benefits.
Tax-exempt hospitals are expected to dedicate an unspecified part of their services to charity cases, and Martin Memorial devoted $23.9 million in 2006, about 3 percent, which was average for Florida, according to state data.
Mr. Jiménez was a very expensive charity case. In cases like his, where patients need long-term care, hospitals are not allowed to discharge them to the streets. Federal regulations require them - if they receive Medicare payments, and most hospitals do - to transfer or refer patients to "appropriate" post-hospital care.
But in most states, the government does not finance post-hospital care for illegal immigrants, for temporary legal immigrants or for legal residents with less than five years in the United States. (California and New York City are notable exceptions; Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program, spends $20 million a year on long-term care for illegal immigrants, as does the Health and Hospitals Corporation of New York City.)
Martin Memorial's lawyer, Mr. Lord, said hospitals should not be forced to assume financial and legal responsibility for these cases. "It should be a governmental burden," he said, "or the government should step in and otherwise exercise its authority for deportation or whatever it wants to do."
In Mr. Jiménez's case, the hospital's doctors determined that appropriate post-hospital care meant traumatic brain injury rehabilitation. Much to the surprise of the hospital staff, Mr. Jiménez had regained cognitive function to about the level of a fourth-grade child.
Hospital discharge planners searched to no avail for a rehabilitation program or nursing home. "Unable to take patient" was the response to many queries, as noted in Mr. Jiménez's files, which also state: "At this time, patient remains a disposition problem."
Representing Mr. Jiménez's guardian, Mr. Banks took the position that the hospital had a responsibility to provide Mr. Jiménez with the rehabilitation he needed - even if it meant paying a rehabilitation center to provide it. That, he noted, could have benefited both the hospital and the patient.
"It would have been more cost-effective for them," Mr. Banks said, given that daily patient costs in long-term care are far lower than in acute-care hospitals. "And if the rehab worked, then Luis might have become a functional person and nobody's charge."
But the hospital declined, as Mr. Lord put it, "to take out our checkbook" and subsidize his care at another institution.
"Once you take that step, for how long are you going to do that - a year, 10 years, 50 years?" Mr. Lord, the lawyer, asked.
At that point, the hospital intensified its efforts to involve the Guatemalan government in the case. In a memorandum obtained by The New York Times, a consular official wrote that the hospital "informed us of how expensive it was becoming to care for Luis given that there was no insurance and that he is illegal and that the state won't assume responsibility for his charges."
Eventually, the Guatemalan health minister wrote a letter assuring Martin Memorial that his country was prepared to care for Mr. Jiménez. Gabriel Orellana, who was foreign minister at the time but did not have direct knowledge of the case, said the Guatemalan government was disposed to assist an American institution. "If a hospital in Florida asks if we can take care of a Guatemalan patient, the tendency is to say yes," Mr. Orellana said.
Mr. Gaspar was dubious, believing the public health care system in his homeland to be grossly inadequate.
So the guardian and the hospital reached an impasse, and Martin Memorial finally took the matter to court, asking a state judge to compel Mr. Gaspar to cooperate with its repatriation plan. In June 2003, a hearing was held before Circuit Judge John E. Fennelly.
The Journey Home
In the courthouse in Stuart, a low-key, upscale town that boasts world-class fishing, George F. Bovie III, a lawyer for Martin Memorial, addressed the judge: "This case is not simply a case, as some would try and paint it, of money. This is a case about care for a man in this country illegally who has reached maximum medical improvement at our hospital and is ready to be discharged and whose home government" is prepared to receive and treat him.
Mr. Banks responded: "Your honor, this is a case about a hospital that has failed to do its job properly," adding that the hospital sought to "have this court legitimize its patient dumping."
By the time of the hearing, Mr. Jiménez was essentially a boarder at the hospital, wheeling around the hallways and hanging out at the nursing stations. Diana Gregory, a nurse who supervises case management and discharge planning, said in a recent interview that Mr. Jiménez - "I will affectionately call him Louie" - became "like family" to hospital staff members, who bought him birthday cakes, knitted him blankets and gave him toys.
According to hospital records, however, it was not all pastries and presents. Mr. Jiménez grew depressed as he gradually became more cognizant of his situation. He showed signs of regression, too. Emotional and behavioral volatility often follow serious head injuries, and Ms. Gregory said that Mr. Jiménez had developed some disturbing habits, including spitting, yelling out, kicking and defecating on the floor.
In court, his doctor, Walter Gil, testified that Mr. Jiménez would benefit from returning to the intimacy of his family. In his case file, the doctor had noted that Mr. Jiménez had told him, "Estoy triste," meaning, "I'm sad."
Dr. Gil said he asked Mr. Jiménez, "Why are you sad when you have basically everything that could be offered to you?" And, he said, Mr. Jiménez replied, "I miss my family and my wife."
Mr. Banks's witnesses challenged what they described as Guatemala's vague offer to care for Mr. Jiménez.
Dr. Miguel Garcés, a prominent Guatemalan physician and public health advocate, said in a deposition that serious rehabilitation "is almost nonexistent" in Guatemala outside private facilities. He predicted that Mr. Jiménez would be taken in and then released from the country's one public rehabilitation hospital within a matter of weeks.
"I don't want him to go home and die," Dr. Garcés said.
"Nobody wants him to go home and die," the hospital's lawyer responded.
A few weeks later, Judge Fennelly ruled. "This Court," he wrote, "sails on uncharted seas." He acknowledged that his decision might provoke dissent but opined, "As Aquinas once stated, 'The good is not the enemy of the perfect,' " inverting and misattributing Voltaire's famous quote, "The perfect is the enemy of the good."
And then he granted the hospital's petition, ordering that Mr. Gaspar stop "frustrating" the hospital's plan to "relocate the ward" back to Guatemala.
Mr. Banks was stunned. He filed a notice of appeal and asked for a stay of the court's order while the appeal was pending. The judge asked the hospital to file a response by 10 a.m. on July 10 before he ruled on the stay.
Four and a half hours before that response was due, shortly before daybreak on July 10, 2003, an ambulance picked up Mr. Jiménez at the hospital and drove him to the St. Lucie County airport, where an air ambulance waited to transport him back to Guatemala. Mr. Gaspar was not apprised.
"We went to see him at the hospital, and his bed was empty," he said.
The hospital's lawyer declined to comment on why the hospital did not wait for the judge to rule on the stay.
Diana Gregory, the nurse, traveled to Guatemala with Mr. Jiménez, bringing a wheelchair, a week's worth of medications, "lunch/snacks/juices/treats," and an emergency passport signed with a fingerprint, according to discharge records. Mr. Jiménez wore a Florida Marlins cap and carried a toy cellphone.
During the flight, the records said, Mr. Jiménez dozed, paged through picture books, pushed the window shade up and down and pointed outside, saying, "Look, look!" When he arrived in Guatemala, an ambulance took him to the National Hospital for Orthopedics and Rehabilitation, which occupies the converted stables of an old villa in the historic center of the capital city.
Ms. Gregory accompanied him there, turned over his records and toured the hospital. In a recent interview, Ms. Gregory said she was impressed by the place and especially by the staff's pride in it, despite equipment that looked "like it could have been donated to the Smithsonian." She added, "That facility could have taken care of me any day."
While Ms. Gregory was taking her tour, Mr. Jiménez was holding court, according to her notes in his file, "telling everyone that he was from Miami, Florida, and showing them his toy cat." At her request, a physician told Mr. Jiménez in Spanish "that he would be staying with his new friends in Guatemala and that I was leaving." His response, according to her notes: "O.K., O.K., adiós."
Glad that she had helped reunite Mr. Jiménez with his homeland, she said, "I left Guatemala quiet in my heart."
Care in Guatemala
Immaculately clean but dilapidated, Guatemala's National Hospital for Orthopedics and Rehabilitation operates on a shoestring budget of approximately $400,000 a year, according to Dr. Harold Von Ahn, who was director when Mr. Jiménez arrived.
Half the hospital is devoted to orthopedic care and the other half serves as an "asylum" for profoundly disabled Guatemalans. Although it is the only public rehabilitation hospital in the country, it dedicates just 32 beds to rehabilitation and does not offer the specialized brain injury treatment that Mr. Jiménez needed.
The Guatemalan foreign ministry said that it knew of 53 repatriations by American hospitals in the last five years. During a visit by The Times to the National Hospital in June, the most recent arrival was an 18-year-old, Diana Paola Miguel, transported there by the University Medical Center in Tucson nine days after a van accident crushed her pelvis, which the Arizona hospital repaired. Supine on a gurney, she Ms. Paola was too tremblingly upset to talk.
Dr. Von Ahn said he believed that American hospitals were dumping patients that should be their responsibility. "It's the same as the classic fall on the stairs, right?" he said. "You go to my home, you fall on my stairs and then you sue me. I am responsible."
Shortly after Mr. Jiménez arrived, the Guatemalan hospital contacted his common-law wife, Fabiana Domingo Laureano, who lived in the city of Antigua with their two young sons, and asked her to come get him. Ms. Domingo, who was 27 at the time, was shocked to learn that her husband was back and terrified by the request. Then as now, she was eking out a living, selling traditional woven clothing in a marketplace while sharing a spare, concrete room with her sons in her parents' humble home.
"I was already living from hand to mouth," she said in an interview in Antigua, where her sons now supplement her income by selling cigarettes after school. "How could I possibly have given him what he needs?"
The couple met as teenagers in the highland village of Soloma. In the mid-1990s, Mr. Jiménez migrated with his wife's family to Antigua, a volcano-ringed colonial city where tourism sustains the local economy. While she sold clothing, Mr. Jiménez worked as a bus driver's assistant. Together, they earned about $6 a day, which was not enough to support their family, so Mr. Jiménez, with his wife's brother, Francisco Gaspar, decided to follow a well-traveled path to the north. That is when he changed his name from Gervacio Gaspar to Luis Jiménez, which is how he is now known, even by his family.
After pledging to pay a coyote, or smuggler, about $2,000 each to ferry them into the United States, they crossed into California under cover of darkness and made their way to Encinitas, where Mr. Jiménez's older brother lived, Mr. Gaspar said.
After the two men failed to find regular work, Mr. Gaspar began suffering panic attacks and returned to Guatemala; Mr. Jiménez decided to try his luck in Florida.
"Lamentably," Mr. Gaspar said, "luck eluded him."
After the hospital contacted Ms. Domingo, Telemundo, the Spanish-language network, called Ms. Domingo and offered to take her to Guatemala City. Shortly thereafter, the network showed her reunion with her husband.
"You are Maria by chance?" Mr. Jiménez said to his wife as the television cameras rolled.
"Fabiana," she replied. Their two sons stood by her side, wide-eyed.
A few weeks later, Dr. Von Ahn said, the hospital discharged Mr. Jiménez "because we needed the bed," transferring him to another public hospital, San Juan de Dios. That is where Mr. Jiménez's brother, Enrique Lucas Gervacio, found him when he made his way down from the mountains by bus.
"He was lying in the hallway on a stretcher, covered in his own excrement," Mr. Lucas said. "So we cleaned him up and we brought him home."
In Favor of Jiménez
In May, 2004, a Florida appeals court overruled Judge Fennelly.
The Fourth District Court of Appeal found that the Florida state judge had overstepped his bounds because deportation is the prerogative of the federal government. The court also declared that no evidence supported the hospital's assertion that Mr. Jiménez would receive appropriate care in Guatemala; the discharge plan, the ruling said, was not detailed enough to satisfy federal requirements or the hospital's own rules.
The appeals court voided the judge's order although, given that Mr. Jiménez was already back in Guatemala, that action came too late for him.
It might affect others, though. The decision has become what is known legally as a case of first impression on the issue of hospital repatriations.
John DeLeon, a lawyer who advises the consulates of Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala in Miami, said he now referred to it when he received calls from hospitals looking to discharge seriously injured or ill immigrants.
"I now write I call my Montejo Gaspar letter," he said. "It's a letter that says, 'Listen, don't take action to dump this individual because you'll be risking legal action. The law is now that hospitals can't dump immigrant patients without securing appropriate after-care. If somebody has a serious illness and needs continuing care, a hospital can't simply discharge them onto the street, much less put them on a plane.' "
Mr. DeLeon said that he was "bombarded by such cases," adding that he was investigating another medical repatriation by Martin Memorial, which took place two weeks ago "behind the back of the Mexican government."
Martin Memorial confirmed that on July 16 they flew Neptali Díaz, a severely brain-injured patient to Mexico. A court order authorized Mr. Diaz's transfer to an unspecified Mexican hospital, ending the man's 859-day, $2 million stay at Martin Memorial.
After the ruling in Mr. Jiménez's favor, Martin Memorial did not appeal. But the case did not go away. The appeals court ruling set the stage for a personal injury lawsuit, taken on by Searcy, Denney, Scarola, Barnhart & Shipley in West Palm Beach.
With that established firm behind him, Mr. Gaspar initiated a false imprisonment action claiming that his cousin was essentially kidnapped by the hospital and smuggled out of the country in a kind of medical rendition. Since then, appeals judges have again ruled in Mr. Jiménez's favor, stating the hospital can be sued for punitive damages as well as for the cost of his medical care.
This infuriates Ms. Plato Nicosia, the hospital administrator, who said it was Mr. Jiménez's family who owes the hospital money and not vice versa. "Should they win, we would like them to take those damages and pay his hospital bill," she said.
Jack Scarola, representing Mr. Jiménez's guardian, said that he empathized with the hospital's "significant economic burden" but said that it was the "quid pro quo" of accepting Medicare and Medicaid funds to help finance the hospital's services. (About 45 percent of Martin Memorial's net operating revenues came from Medicare and Medicaid last year, based on state data.)
"Also," he continued, "they chose the wrong way to deal with it. The right way would have been through the Legislature. There is no program in place to appropriately distribute care to undocumented persons who are catastrophically injured, and there should be. But you don't stick a brain-injured immigrant on a private plane and spirit him out of the country in the predawn hours."
Weighing Quality of Life
The journey to Jolomcú is an arduous one, as Mr. Jiménez's new legal team discovered when several members - a lawyer, a paralegal, a priest and a bioethicist - first traveled there to meet him.
After a five-hour drive north from Guatemala City to Huehuetenango and then a winding trip, filled with hairpin turns on cliff-hugging roads up and over the Cuchumatán Mountains, they arrived at the provincial city of Soloma.
From there, the road to Mr. Jiménez's hamlet only goes so far, and the trip must be completed on foot, up and down a rutted dirt path through goat-strewn meadows. The Americans arrived at the top panting. There, awaiting them, in an idyllically situated one-room brick house, was Mr. Jiménez, a broad grin lighting up his face.
"The first striking thing was his disposition: He was very, very happy," said the Rev. Frank O'Loughlin, who pastored migrant workers in South Florida for decades. "Then, the second thing, he was well cared for. What I did was I got down over him and hugged him but also smelled. And there were no bedsores. Nothing was malodorous."
As they drove back to Huehuetenango, Marnie R. Poncy, a nurse-lawyer who runs a bioethics law project in Palm Beach County, offered her view: "I said, 'His quality of life is better than it would be in an American nursing home.' "
"But I hazarded a guess that his longevity of existence was probably severely curtailed," she said.
Still, the team reached a conclusion that surprised them: "There was no real compelling reason to think of bringing him back to Florida," Father O'Loughlin said. "We needed to focus on getting help to him or him to help in Guatemala."
Help has been slow in arriving.
When The Times took the trek to visit him in late June, Mr. Jiménez had not budged from his hilltop home since returning there and no medical professional had visited him, either. With his mother too frail to move him into his wheelchair, his life had shrunken to the confines of his bed, across from his mother's.
During the visit, Mr. Jiménez, wearing a nubby Adidas hat and a ski jacket, sat wrapped in a Guatemalan blanket; his mother, who wore a traditional woven skirt, with a floral scarf braided through her long gray hair, stood by his side. She patted his head; he reached out to pick lint from her sweater.
A few days prior, he had suffered a particularly violent seizure.
"He was almost dead," his mother, Mrs. Gervacio, said in Kanjobal, which was translated into Spanish by a school principal serving as interpreter. "For many years, I am caring for him like he is a baby, changing his diaper, washing him. But this is worse. I am worried to leave him alone at all."
She is right to worry, said physicians consulted for this article. Patients suffering seizure disorders run the risk of injuring themselves - and of increasing their brain damage.
Still, Mrs. Gervacio does leave from time to time, she said, to go to Mass, shutting the door behind her and hoping for the best.
"It scares me a lot when you leave, Mama!" Mr. Jiménez blurted out, revealing that he was intently following the conversation that at first took place as if he were not there.
Given that Mr. Jiménez's mother's health is failing, the family worries about the future, too. And Mr. Jiménez shares their concern. "The day my mother is no longer, what's going to happen to me?" he said. "This is what I have on my mind."
Mr. Jiménez, whose memory is patchy, said he remembered nothing about his time in the United States - not Indiantown, not his job as a gardener, not the accident and not the hospital.
He does, remember the dreams that propelled his migration, and he expressed them eloquently: "I headed north like a peasant with a heavy bundle on his back, bent over, determined to better himself," he said. "Other people had things so I thought, 'Why not me?' But now I regret it. Maybe God was punishing me for my illusions."
"No, Luis," the interpreter interjected, "it was just chance, an accident, a car accident."
In Guatemala City, Dr. Garcés, the public health advocate, said that he was not surprised that, as he had predicted, Mr. Jiménez never received further medical care. "That's the usual story of patients that are released from the National Orthopedic Hospital," he said.
Dr. Garcés called Mr. Jiménez's repatriation "inhumane."
"In cases like that, if you cut the medical care, you're hurting that person," Dr. Garcés said. "You're doing just the opposite of what the medical system should do. That goes against every international convention of human rights and health. To send him to Guatemala was to send him to very poor living and health conditions and probably he will die because of that, and that's not fair."
Without evaluation, doctors cannot know what potential for rehabilitation - or survival - Mr. Jiménez possesses.
If Mr. Jiménez's guardian were to prevail in the lawsuit, "it would be possible to set up a good health care arrangement for him because in private practice we have all types of specialties that he needs," Dr. Garcés said. "And transportation could be arranged." But the case could drag on for years.
On the day of The Times's visit, before Mr. Jiménez ate a lunch of eggs, tortillas and sugar water, Mr. Banks, the lawyer, gave him a present from his cousins in Florida - a plastic bag bulging with tube socks, undershirts and oversize sweatpants. Mr. Jiménez fingered the clothing with little interest but when a reporter began to read him the accompanying letter in Spanish, he snatched it excitedly from her hands.
Much to the surprise of his visitors, Mr. Jiménez, despite his brain injury, could read. He smoothed out the yellow legal paper from Mr. Gaspar and began: "I am sending you some little things. Luis, I hope that you like them."
At first, Mr. Jiménez read haltingly, then more fluidly. Later, when all his visitors had gone outside, he read the ending aloud again to himself.
"I want to tell you," he read, "that we miss you and love you a lot. May God continue to bless you."
Mr. Jiménez smiled, and repeated, softly, "May God continue to bless you."
Pilar Conci contributed reporting.

ICE launches voluntary deportation program for illegal immigrants

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

ICE launches voluntary deportation program for illegal immigrants
Deirdre Jurand
at 10:00 AM ET

[JURIST] US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official website] launched a new program [fact sheet; press release] Tuesday that allows certain illegal immigrants to coordinate their removal from the US with ICE without the risk of home raids, arrest or detention. The Scheduled Departure Program, a pilot program that will run through August 22 in five major cities [program overview], is designed for illegal immigrants without criminal records who have ignored official removal orders. According to the ICE press release:
The agency recognizes there are those less inclined to accept the intentions of such a compassionately conceived enforcement initiative, but remains committed to providing sensible alternatives that balance the welfare of the individuals and families in question with its clear obligation to uphold the law.

The Scheduled Departure Program will not alter a participant's immigration status or provide any immigration benefit. The program is not a form of voluntary departure or voluntary return. Participants will continue to have a final order of removal, deportation or exclusion.
ICE stressed that illegal immigrants without formal removal orders, those with criminal records and those who pose a threat to national security would not qualify for the program and would be detained, but said [program brochure, PDF] that participation by those who qualified would ease the transition process and the impact on the immigrants' families. ICE also began an ad campaign in the five participating cities, but critics have said the program will be ineffective because eligible immigrants will not voluntarily surrender. AP has more.

ICE maintains a number of additional initiatives [fact sheet] to combat illegal immigration. In May, 270 illegal immigrants arrested during an ICE-led raid at an Agriprocessors Inc. [corporate website] meatpacking plant in Iowa were each sentenced to five months in prison [JURIST report] and 27 more received probation after pleading guilty to the use of false immigration documents. ICE also carried out a raid in California the same month targeting 495 people who had ignored deportation orders, resulting in the arrest of more than 900 illegal immigrants [ICE press release]. In general, US immigration prosecutions continued to increase in March 2008, jumping nearly 50 percent from the previous month and nearly 75 percent from the previous year, according to a report [text; press release] released by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) [official website] at Syracuse University. TRAC attributed the increase to Operation Streamline [Washington Post backgrounder], a joint federal program under which federal prosecutors levy minor charges against illegal immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border. | © JURIST
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Immigration: The 'Please Deport Me' Plan Falls Flat on First Day
By Jackie Mahendra, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
August 6, 2008
 
In the past few months, both DHS (the Department of Homeland Security) and ICE (Immigration, Customs and Enforcement) have come under fire for the dozens upon dozens of unaccounted-for deaths in immigrant detention. This was followed by outrage over ratcheted-up enforcement operations that have spawned the largest, and perhaps most unjust, workplace raids in US history.
 
The response?
 
Instead of making strides to repair an ailing immigration system, or ensuring humane detention conditions for those in DHS custody, ICE has introduced a plan so absurd, even its die-hard fans are stumped.
 
ICE to immigrants: 'Please Deport Yourselves.'
 
In an honor akin to hosting the next Olympics, Chicago was selected to be one of five pilot cities for the 'Please Deport Me Plan.' 'Operation Scheduled Departure,' as ICE calls it, targets undocumented immigrants with no criminal record, whom ICE believes might be convinced to deport themselves. Spanish, English, and Polish-language ads will run in ethnic news outlets throughout the city to let undocumented immigrants know about this exciting new option at their fingertips. While today marked the first full day of the new program, (surprise, surprise) not a single immigrant volunteered for deportation.
 
The incentive to 'self-deport'?
 
The wish to avoid traumatic separation from family, dying in a privately-traded detention facility, or having to give birth shackled, which have become the crowning achievements of our failure to pass humane immigration reform under this administration's watch.
 
A bad joke?
 
'This kind of claptrap idea is not a smart way to deal with immigration,' said Joshua Hoyt, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights' Executive Director. 'This is a publicity stunt by ICE to put a happy face to the brutal actions that have broken many families apart.' We need real, honest, solutions that work, not to waste time focusing on undocumented immigrants with no criminal record.
 
In ICE's defense, it is a smart move to try to end the shameful raids and detentions that over 1,000 protestors rallied in Postville, Iowa, to denounce last month. The injustice of the Postville raid, which ravaged the tiny Iowa town and short-circuited an ongoing labor violations case against the raided Plant, will not soon be forgotten. The 66-and-counting immigrant men and women who have died in immigrant detention continue to haunt a sick and ailing system.
 
ICE is right to think that more and bigger raids and prisons are not the answer. They are wrong, however, to think that immigrant men and women who have risked everything to struggle to make a life for their families here will just pack up and leave because they were targeted by an ad in the paper.
 
They are also wrong if they think that bogus offers like these will even temporarily provide relief for our dysfunctional immigration system. While they may seek to distract people from the real problems we face, these types of 'solutions' speak for themselves: they show just how dangerously out-of-touch these agencies have become, even with so much at stake.