Saturday, May 09, 2009

If At First, A Mother's Child

He was in an untagged van with maybe fifteen other border-crossers when it hit a pedestrian. By the time the police got to the scene most of them were gone; scattered and disappeared into the hot windless night.

Jaime was too weak and tired to run away so he was apprehended. At the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) center he kept on falling down when they tried to photograph him. That's when they decided to take him to the hospital.

His total CK's were over 65,000 (normal is less than about 200.) He had become so dehydrated and fluid depleted that his muscles were breaking down and releasing all this waste and muck into his bloodstream. He became weak.

He was a young and muscular guy. Six-pack abs.

His blood urea nitrogen was about four times normal and his serum creatinine was almost 8, which told us that his kidneys were waving the white flag. Because Jaime was basically a very healthy twenty-something dude, he responded well to treatment. That mostly consisted of running intravenous fluids like crazy and feeding him.

There was an ICE officer with him at all times. They were nice to him, meaning that they didn't keep him shackled to the bed.

He asked for someone who could speak Spanish so we asked our in-house interpreter to stop by. Jaime said he was feeling better and that he just wanted to go back to Mexico now.

If this was his first attempt to enter the United States illegally, they'd just take him to ICE after we were done juicing him up and getting his kidneys revived. They would fingerprint him, run the prints, and if there were no hits they'd take him to Nogales and drop him off on the other side of the border.

If he had a criminal record he'd be prosecuted. If this were Jaime's second or third attempt to cross in, he'd go to a federal prison for maybe five years.

It's better than being dead.

If he had not been apprehended and hospitalized, he'd have very likely ended up stashed in a drop house with dozens of other people until the coyotes could move them along further. He'd have gotten no medical care, little food and water, and most likely his condition would have deteriorated and he'd have died. Laying on the floor in a crowded room in a boarded-up house. Hiding. Dying.

Or if he became a drag on the coyotes, and if one of the coyotes were a fucked-up psychopath (not all that unlikely) then he could have been just taken out into the desert and killed. So the whole group wouldn't get held back by one sick guy.

If he were simply taken down to Nogales and he tried to cross again, with a body still weakened by a bout of severe dehydration, he could die trying.

I don't want to do the math. It would include the cost of Jaime's hospitalization and the hourly pay for the ICE officers who guarded him. Five figures easy.

I am not some anti-immigration hardass. I'd be happy to see the border gone actually. Then Puerto Penasco would morph into La Jolla. But we do have to face the facts, and that means looking at costs.

Uncom-pensated [sic] medical outlays for health care provided to the state’s illegal alien population is now estimated at about $400 million a year.

I don't know. Is that a lot of money? Probably not. All I know is that without help, Jaime would be either dead or on dialysis for the rest of his life.

Amended per Ruth's suggestion:

I wrote this up the day before Mother's Day, a progressive holiday despite the greeting-card industry. Do they have Mother's Day in Mexico?


Ruth said...

Didn't even occur to you that this is a lovely Mothers' Day post, I bet.

wunelle said...

I hope he at least considered donating his six pack if things turned bad... I'd be a prime candidate to swap my two-liter abs for the smaller model.

But seriously. We've had a tree taken out last year, and now this year we've had some painting done, in both cases by a crew only one of whom spoke English. They have all done fantastic work. It drives the Faux News watchers crazy, but it seems the American Dream writ large to me.