The number of casualties from the border wall has increased dramatically in recent years, coinciding with attempts to reinforce the barrier.
According to US Customs and Border Protection, more than 2 million undocumented immigrants entered the United States illegally last year. Not only law enforcement, but also local doctors and first responders have to deal with the influx.
Dr. Alan Tyroch, founding president/professor of surgery at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, says that of the 323 patients he saw last year with border-related injuries, 82% were the result of the wall him -same.
The height of the border barrier has steadily increased over time, reaching as high as 30 feet in some places in the most recent additions. While law enforcement officials say securing our border is an endless war, the death toll of migrants and the cost of their care are impacting border towns.
The increase in the height of the border wall increases the risk of injuries to migrants and the need for rescues at border barriers.
Sunland Park Fire Department Chief Daniel Medrano told KTSM that in 2021 they had the most rescues. Just at 230 for the year,” he said in a statement. According to him, 9% of the calls were related to this.
More people trying to cross the border creates more danger, according to U.S. Border Patrol Agent Carlos Rivera, who noted that the El Paso area is the third busiest for arrests. All kinds of people have tried to break through that barrier, he added, from young people to families to single adults, and it’s the most common problem we have here.
KTSM 9 News anchor Brenda Medina and Border Patrol agents were on the scene when they came across one of the smuggler’s tools.
According to Rivera, “transnational crime groups (command) migrants to scale this border barrier using improvised ladders, we’re not talking about a conventional ladder from Home Depot or any other big box brand.” To cross the border fence, migrants use improvised ladders, which break easily under the weight of their own bodies.
According to Rivera, in order to avoid arrest, criminal groups can shoot the ladder, which creates a distraction for officers so they can focus on rescuing migrants instead. Other than money, they don’t care about these people’s lives.
One of Border Patrol’s cameras captured an expectant mother lying on a 6-inch-thick concrete slab atop the barrier, just yards from a busy El Paso freeway. It would be better to leave them up there. In order to avoid consequences, Rivera argued, migrants should be let down.
Immediately after the rescues, the immigrants are taken to several facilities in the city, including University Medical Center and Del Sol Medical Center.
People who have complex fractures in the ankles, lower leg and where it enters the foot, that leg/foot/ankle complex, and those are pretty serious fractures,” says Dr Stephen Flaherty, medical director of Del Sol in traumatology.
There’s an open fracture because they land in the mud, and the bone sticks out through the skin. “There’s a lot of edema with these fractures,” Flaherty explained. Sometimes it takes a while for orthopedic surgeons to be able to repair the bones. As a result, patients are forced to stay in the hospital for an extended period.
Dr Susan McLean, professor of surgery at the TTUHSC, said “it’s pretty much every day that we hurt someone walking down the border wall”.
At the UMC, the vast majority of migrants are taken care of. There were 265 patients with border wall-related injuries in 2021, an increase from 125 in 2020, according to McLean and Tyroch.
According to Tyroch, “like severe brain damage that can be accompanied by coma, and that’s long-lasting damage,” pelvic fractures, rib fractures, and upper extremity injuries are all common, but injuries the most common we see are those of the lower limbs.
For perspective, doctors liken these injuries to falling from two- or three-story buildings. “One in 10 people we encounter as a result of falling border walls have spinal damage,” McLean said.
“We have seen people who have fallen off the wall and entered the city, and they can’t take the anguish any longer and they have to call for help,” Medrano added. It’s amazing for us to see how they’ve come this far with their injuries, some of them.
Who foots the bill for all the medical bills of these migrants? There’s a lot more to it than just local taxes, according to County Commissioner David Stout.
Here’s how it works: expenses are expected to be $4.8 million, but expenses are expected to be $12.4 million. UMC has received nearly $2.8 million in reimbursements from the federal government so far, according to Stout.
To put that into perspective, these numbers cover the period from October 1, 2018 to February 15, 2022.
“There are other federal and state funding sources that help pay for (migration expenses), and only a small fraction of the total UMC budget comes from local property taxes,” the commissioner added. The federal government should reimburse them for any patients they bring to UMC since immigration is a federal matter,” Stout said.