Uninsured Immigrant Patients Sent Home for Care Against Their Will

Del Cid, who has been in the United States for 17 years and has a valid work visa, fell into a coma after an emergency Caesarean section and hysterectomy April 20. Her newborn daughter, Juliani Milagros Mitchel, who was delivered prematurely, remains stable in the hospital's pediatric intensive care unit.

Soon after the hospital told Del Cid's family that she would be flown to Hospital Escuela in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, family friend Maria Adame called Curtin and his law partner, Joel Robbins, to stop the transfer. A spokesman for Hospital Escuela told the Arizona Republic that its intensive care unit has only four beds and lacks a dialysis unit.

"She doesn't want to go back," Adame said. "Sonia's lived here for half her life, and she has seven kids, all born here in Phoenix. And she works legally -– she has her license to clean houses and she worked for a furniture company."

The scenario was not unfamiliar to Fernando Gaxiola, an attorney who said he has prevented three attempted forcible removals of uninsured clients.

"One was a baby born in Arizona and because the parents couldn't pay and they were Mexican, University Medical Center in Tucson tried to fly the child to a hospital in Mexico," he said."They were waiting to move the child from the helicopter to an air ambulance when the police intervened."

In another case, Gaxiola said one of his clients visiting the country on a tourist visa was transported from Tucson to a small town on the Mexican border.

"I called the FBI and the police," he said. "When the ambulance got to the border, the border patrol agent asked to speak to the passenger in the vehicle, who said he didn't want to be transported. The police responded, and he got back to Tucson."

A spokesman for University Medical Center, Katie Riley, declined to discuss specific cases but explained that the hospital has transported hundreds of patients back to their home countries.

"There are certainly some who are not happy," she said. "In most cases, long-term care [facilities] won't take people if they don't pay. And we have no choice."

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