Skip to comments.'Border baby' boom strains S. Texas (70-80% of births mothers are illegal aliens)
Posted on 09/24/2006 6:36:02 AM PDT by Diddle E. Squat
RIO GRANDE CITY First it was a trickle, now it's a flood.
Rising numbers of undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Central America are streaming into Texas to give birth, straining hospitals and costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, health officials say.
Doctors and health officials say they are overwhelmed by both the new arrivals and those immigrant mothers who already are in the state. Even Houston's feeling the pinch. An estimated 70 percent to 80 percent of the 10,587 births at Ben Taub General Hospital and Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital last year were to undocumented immigrants, administrators say.
Also feeling the strain is Starr County, an already poor South Texas county that has the region's only taxpayer-supported hospital district.
Immigrants "want a U.S.-born baby" and know that emergency room staffers don't collect any money up front, said Dr. Mario Rodriguez, an obstetrician in Starr County.
"The word is out: Come to Starr County and get delivered for free. Why pay $1,000 in Mexico when you can get it for free?" Rodriguez said.
''When we are separated only by the distance of the river, it's easy to do," Starr County hospital administrator Thalia Muñoz said. "It's gotten worse, and it's because the economy in Mexico is not good and because we provide all these benefits."
Unfortunately, doctors say, Starr County isn't alone.
''Our little snapshot is duplicated in all the municipalities between here and California," said Tony Falcon, a Rio Grande City physician who was appointed to the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission in April. ''What you see here is what is happening in Brownsville, McAllen, El Paso and San Diego."
He operates a private family clinic and delivers babies at the Starr County hospital. About a third of his deliveries are what he calls "walk-ins" mothers in labor showing up at the ER.
''Obviously, it has a huge impact on patient health and the kind of health care that's provided," Falcon said. "You don't get the kind of prenatal care you should get."
'Anchor babies' Immigration-control advocates regard the U.S.-born infants as "anchor babies" because they give their undocumented parents and relatives a way to petition for citizenship. They estimate that 360,000 of these babies are born in the U.S. every year and warn that the numbers are rising.
Once parents have an "anchor baby," they become more difficult to deport, said Jack Martin, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a lobby organization in Washington, D.C.
''It's a fairly big factor in complicating the removal of illegal aliens," Martin said. "Illegal aliens know that and, to some extent, we think they're being influenced into having children as soon as they get into the U.S. to complicate their removal."
Some lawmakers want to begin denying citizenship to babies born to illegal immigrants.
Birthright citizenship, as it is known, has been in force since the approval of the Constitution's 14th Amendment in 1868. But several bills under consideration in Congress would abolish the longstanding federal policy. Sponsors include U.S. Reps. Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson, and Nathan Deal, R-Ga.
In a largely symbolic move, the Michigan House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly on Sept. 8 to end birthright citizenship.
Undocumented immigrants say they are being attacked unfairly and think that all children born in the U.S. should have equal rights.
Socorro Gonzalez, an undocumented immigrant who in August gave birth to her fourth child on U.S. soil, said she and her husband aren't trying to take advantage of immigration laws or abuse the health care system.
''We're not here to have a child. We are here to work," she said as she cradled her infant son, Orlando Soto.
Gonzalez, 42, said she moved to South Texas four years ago to join her husband, a cabinet maker. Two of their older children were born at a private midwife's clinic, she said, and two were delivered at taxpayer expense at hospitals in McAllen.
Gonzalez said the benefits of undocumented immigrants' labor in the U.S. more than compensate for the costs of their medical bills.
''I don't see why they should deny a medical service if we're here struggling for this country," she said. ''Because of the help of Mexican workers, whether they want us or not, this country is progressing."
Still, someone has to pay the bills, and not everyone is happy about that.
Uncollected medical bills Starr County Memorial Hospital had $3.6 million in uncollected medical bills in 2005, up from $1.5 million in 2002. The total when fiscal 2006 ends on Sept. 30 is expected to hit $3.9 million, chief financial officer Rafael Olivarez said. Unpaid bills for the past five years will reach nearly $13 million, he said.
To make up for the shortfall, Starr County's hospital district is proposing a 25 percent tax hike.
Already, the U.S. government is pitching in, setting aside $1 billion in Medicaid funds to pay for emergency care received by undocumented migrants over the next four years.
But Olivarez said getting the reimbursements isn't easy. Federal officials ''told us at a meeting they would pay us about 20 cents on the dollar," he said. "But it's better than nothing."
No one knows for sure how many undocumented immigrants there are or what they cost the health care system. Most hospitals don't ask whether patients have papers.
Total cost unknown
''It puts them in the position of being border police," said Amanda Engler, a spokeswoman for the Texas Hospital Association in Austin.
Harris County Hospital District officials say their policy is not to question patients directly about their citizenship.
''We do not explicitly ask if our patients are illegal, but we do ask them for proof of Harris County residency," district spokeswoman Shannon Rasp said. "Often citizenship status becomes clearer when billing issues come up."
Eighty-three percent of the undocumented immigrants receiving in-patient care at the district's hospitals and clinics last year were from Mexico, officials said. Six percent were from El Salvador or Guatemala. And the remaining 11 percent were from such countries as Britain, Canada, Haiti, India, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria and Vietnam.
''Using anecdotal information provided us by our staff, statistics from other public hospital systems and our patient demographics, we believe that approximately 70 to 80 percent of our obstetrics patients are undocumented," Rasp said.
In all, 57,072 patients visited the district's hospitals, clinics and health centers last year, and nearly a fifth were undocumented, Rasp said. The cost of their treatment was $97.3 million, up from $55 million in 2002.
Just unreal....are we this stupid?
Oh, they're just here to get the WIC that Americans don't want. Incidentally, I've noticed over the past year that baby formula is now kept under lock and key. What the hell is up with that?
Time to put a law into effect...no US citizenship if you are born of a mother who was an illegal alien at time of your birth.
My friend in Canada says that illegals have bypassed the whole "jobs Canadians won't do" routine. They just sneak all the way across the USA and across the border and go directly to the welfare office to announce their arrival and demand their money.
Sounds like a good place to start building the wall.
I can see it was expenive, but it was expensive eleven years ago too when I last bought baby formula. Back then, you cound go into any grocery store and grab the stuff right off the baby aisle where all the other incredibly expensive baby stuff was.
Anyway, I'm hijacking this thread with a symptom. The article explains the disease.
I'm sure Dane thinks this is great. But, I doubt we'll see the DU Troll on this post.
One of my local stations had a segment on it. Its being used in the manufacture of crystal meth.
You know, I agree with you, but I fear the damage has already been done. Fifty percent of the next generation of Mexico and Central America are already American Citizens. Thinking we can get a law passed by gutless Congress is a stretch, but making that law retroactive would be a miracle.
It's impolite to speak of another FReeper without pinging him/her. So, let's ping him/her if he/she is awake yet. This thread wouldn't be complete without invoking the "T" word or the "B" word.
If you are going to trash someone on FR (post 10), at least have the courtesy to ping them.
BTW, I'll take Dane over the knee-jerk hystericals that swarm these threads.
Baby formula? Really? Do, do they enter you in a computer database when you buy formula like the did when I bought Children's Sudafed last month?
No I don't think it is great, but you are going to have change the 14th amendment.
BTW, when you mention my name in a post have the guts to ping me.
everyone call your congressman and senator. listen to them laugh and mock you.
Actually the Europeans are stagnating with high welfare costs, high unemployment and a birth dearth of their own.
That's why the import muslims to pay for the generous welfare benefits they give out.
She's certainly got her ACLU rap down. Apparently, the kind mexicans are making us progress whether we like it or not. I guess all good things happen because of selfless mexicans "struggling for this country". I think "struggling" would include paying your bills. The truth is, they care precious little for this country except when it comes to the money.
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