In Hidalgo County, New Mexico, a rapid increase in large groups of illegal aliens crossing over the border has meant dramatic changes — so dramatic that in at least one case, residents were turned away at an urgent care clinic so that individuals in Border Patrol custody could be treated, according to the Washington Examiner.
Hidalgo County is in a sparsely populated area in the southernmost part of New Mexico with a population of just 5,000. Given that the average income there is $32,000, it doesn’t have much of a tax base.
But, like many other communities along the southern border, Hidalgo has been hit with the blowback from illegal immigration when the county can least afford it — especially when it comes to infectious diseases.
Customs and Border Protection data released last week showed that, among other things, the Border Patrol “has spent a total of 19,299 hours providing various levels of support to these hospital visits.”
“This includes transportation to and from, and over watch for each person/family at the hospital,” the press release said. “This means there are less agents performing border security duties.”
The data also showed a significant uptick in family units being apprehended so far this year, with a 280 percent increase over the same period in fiscal year 2018. Apprehensions not made at ports of entry — i.e., where a border wall would conceivably help — were up 81 percent.
There were other troubling aspects to the report.
“Over the past few months (fiscal 2019 to date), (Border Patrol) has seen a dramatic increase in the number of large groups of 100 illegal aliens or more being apprehended along the southern border,” the report read. “In the El Paso, Rio Grande Valley, Tucson, and Yuma Sectors over the last four months, smugglers and traffickers have delivered 53 large groups, totaling 8,797 illegal aliens.”
In Hidalgo County, this has put a massive strain on the local community.
“Two county officials who spoke with the Washington Examiner during a recent meeting said they have seen massive groups of migrants, from 100 to 300 people each, getting dropped off in the county,” the outlet reported.
“The high number of arrivals wasn’t a problem at first, but by November and early December, it became a problem when many people began showing up sick and in need of professional care,” the report said.
“For a while there, we were being called every day. They (Border Patrol) wanted us to do their screening because they had a lack of medical personnel,” Hidalgo County Emergency Medical Services Director David Whipple told the Examiner.
The logistics of this — Whipple’s department has only six paid staff and five volunteers, and a ride from the EMS headquarters in the county seat of Lordsburg to the Border Patrol station in Antelope Wells to the nearest hospital and then back takes six hours — prompted County Manager Tisha Green to work with officials to mitigate some of the issues. Still, that means Hidalgo County residents, who pay for that EMS service, aren’t getting it or aren’t getting it as quickly as they normally would. This is life-and-death stuff here.
“The biggest concern that I’ve heard about is not that they’re disease-ridden, but the fact that they don’t vaccinate. I mean, it would become a county epidemic,” Green said.
“The comment was made that a good 20 of the immigrants walked in with Border Patrol and all of the local residents that were there waiting for appointments were kind of pushed to the side,” she said, “and several of the people got up and left because they didn’t want to be around any type of illness they could be bringing in.”
In other words, patients were pushed out of line because illegal immigrants in Border Patrol custody needed to be seen.
These aren’t just garden-variety illnesses, either. On Saturday, The Associated Press reported that “(a) man among a group of migrants detained in a desolate part of New Mexico near the border with Mexico has been diagnosed as infected with flesh-eating bacteria.”
He was being detained near Lordsburg — the seat of Hildalgo County.
“Flesh-eating bacteria are a rare condition called necrotizing fasciitis that spreads quickly and can be fatal,” the AP reported. “The bacteria usually gets into the body through a minor cut or scrape and can cause a serious infection that can destroy muscle, skin and other tissue.
“Sometimes surgery is needed to remove the infected area. It’s rare for the infection to spread to other people.”
Rare doesn’t indicate impossible, but it’s still within the realm of possibility, however low. A much more communicable disease is scabies — something that’s been a major problem at the Border Patrol facility, according to county officials.
“They’ve had big issues with scabies,” Whipple said. “That’s an ongoing thing.”
Consider what the report also notes: “Another 300 migrants, mostly Central Americans, were detained Thursday south of Lordsburg near an official U.S.-Mexico border crossing, Antunez said. Some had illnesses and injuries and were taken to hospitals for treatment.”
This is a county of 5,000 square miles with 5,000 people. Its tax base is unusually small. It doesn’t have the kind of services to withstand this.
Perhaps you don’t agree that we need a border wall from San Diego to the mouth of the Rio Grande. However, I’d be curious to hear arguments as to why a fence wouldn’t work in areas like Hidalgo County. After all, no less than Sen. Chuck Schumer has said that “the experts say you can do border security without a wall, which is wasteful and doesn’t solve the problem.”
Yet the problem in Hidalgo County seems to be exactly that — it’s a sparsely populated area that’s also massively attractive for those looking to bring migrants across on foot. This corner of New Mexico is an object lesson in the desperate urgency behind a physical barrier and why it’s time for Congress and the White House to reach some sort of agreement to fund one. The Hidalgo Counties of America simply cannot wait.
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