Media reports have written dramatic stories about a case in Texas of an illegal immigrant who was in detention by immigration officials and diagnosed with a brain tumor while under their care.
Sara Beltran-Hernandez (26) is a Salvadoran illegal immigrant who entered the country in 2015 and was quickly apprehended by the border patrol. She requested asylum but was rejected and ordered deported in 2016. She remained in detention while appealing her deportation.
After suffering worsening headaches at the Prairieland detention facility near Dallas, Beltran-Hernandez collapsed on February 10 and was rushed to a hospital in the Fort Worth area. There she was told they she may need brain surgery to remove a tumor. Reportedly, she has suffered bleeding and other symptoms besides her headaches. After being released by the hospital, she was returned to the detention facility.
Media create dramatic narrative
The New York Daily News headlined its coverage of the story: “Undocumented woman with brain tumor seized by federal agents at Texas hospital, family fears she will die.” In its report on Beltran-Hernandez, the Los Angeles Times wrote, “The abrupt removal of the critically ill woman is a dramatic example of what many observers believe might become the new normal: immigration agents implementing the Trump administration’s call to aggressively deport people in the country illegally regardless of whether they have committed serious crimes.” Fusion wrote she was removed from the hospital “against her will by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency officials, and sent to an ICE detention center, despite having been diagnosed with a brain tumor.”
Lawyers for Beltran-Hernandez have filed an emergency appeal for her release to a hospital. The LA Times quoted Texas attorney Chris Hamilton, who said that the detention is “heartbreaking,” “inhumane,” and “unacceptable under our Constitution, and unacceptable from a standpoint of basic human rights.
There is no known connection between President Trump’s more stringent application of immigration law and Beltran-Hernandez’s detention. However, the American Civil Liberties Union has been contacted by the woman’s attorney to obtain help for her. Reporters and attorney Hamilton were not able to obtain access to Beltran-Hernandez.
According to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, she has an appointment to see a specialist next week who what will be her medical treatment at government expense. Until that time, ICE medical staff is keeping her under observation," the ICE statement said. "Like all detainees in our care, Ms. Beltran will continue to have access to 24-hour emergency medical care and access to any required specialized treatment at an outside facility.”
ICE released a statement concerning the woman’s current situation. "Ms. Beltran-Hernandez was discharged from the hospital on Feb. 22 and returned to ICE custody at the Prairieland Detention Center in Alvarado, Texas. During her stay at the hospital, ICE ensured that she was able to speak to her family and to her attorney by phone. Like all detainees in our care, Ms. Beltran will continue to have access to 24 hour emergency medical care and to any required specialized treatment at an outside facility."
ICE cannot authorize family visits until the proper documentation is provided. Consular officials from El Salvador have visited Beltran-Hernandez, as is diplomatic practice, and have called on US officials to provide the care she needs.
Brain tumor surgery may cost taxpayers up to one million dollars
According to the ICE website, its Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) office is responsible for ensuring detention centers meet federal standards for confinement and appropriate medical care. ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC) provides and coordinates the primary health care services for detainees in ICE custody. As of 2015, IHSC was providing direct care to approximately 13,500 detainees housed at 21 designated facilities. Medical, dental, prenatal, mental health care, and public health services (for infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS) are provided. ICE says that IHSC also provides medical case management and oversight for an additional 15,000 detainees housed at approximately 119 non-IHSC staffed detention facilities across the country. Also, IHSC pays for off-site specialty and emergency care services for detainees in ICE custody.
According to the Cost Helper website, brain surgery for the removal of a tumor may cost from $50,000 to $700,000, depending on its severity, while this does not include post-operative therapy. The cost of Beltran-Hernandez’s detention, coupled with the outlay for her surgery, could be costly. According to Bloomberg News, the cost of detaining illegal aliens was at least $2 billion in 2013. However, Beltran-Hernandez could possibly be deported before undergoing surgery.
Back in 2012, after ICE boasted of significant expenditures and health care improvements, congressional Republicans complained about the new detention standards set by the Obama administration for illegal aliens. “Under this administration, detention looks more like recess,” House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) told a recent oversight hearing mockingly entitled “Holiday on ICE.”
“While funds for American students’ physical education classes are being cut, the new detention standards expand recreation for illegal immigrants,” Smith said. “For instance, illegal and criminal immigrants in ICE custody will have options such as soccer, volleyball and basketball. It would be nice if all American students got those options.”