The main hospital in Yuma, Arizona, put a price tag on the border crisis, with its officials telling lawmakers Thursday that it spent $26 million last year on uncompensated care for the wave of illegal immigrants who threaten to swamp the facility.
Dr. Robert Trenschel, president and CEO of Yuma Regional Medical Center, said migrants are particularly stressful patients, needing everything from dialysis to heart surgery to prenatal care — often the first such care pregnant women have ever received.
And when babies are born, they may have to stay in the intensive care unit for a month because of the complications of their situation.
Dr. Trenschel said discharging migrants is also tougher because they have to provide for a safe discharge, which can mean buying them medical equipment and flying them to relatives.
The migrants are crowding out Yuma’s residents, competing for beds in the emergency room or forcing delays in elective surgery because doctors are needed to care for the migrants.
“We’ve had to delay maternity patients with planned inductions because we’ve simply been out of space in our maternity unit with migrant patients who’ve had deliveries,” the doctor said.
Dr. Trenschel testified at a field hearing held by the House Judiciary Committee.
Chairman Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, said lawmakers wanted to get a first-hand look at the situation on the ground.
Democrats boycotted the hearing, calling it a stunt. Mr. Jordan bristled at that.
“Democrats dismiss the experiences of these real people,” Mr. Jordan said.
Without any Democrats to defend him, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was heavily criticized at the hearing.
One witness, Yuma County Supervisor Jonathan Lines, said Mr. Mayorkas “lied” in a meeting with local leaders last year when he promised to plug nine gaps in the border wall.
“It’s not reasonable,” Mr. Lines said.
Yuma has a population of about 100,000. The Border Patrol apprehended more than 300,000 illegal immigrants in the Yuma region in fiscal year 2022.
Locals said the migrants have polluted the river and farm fields, and warned of spillover violence.
Mr. Lines said the challenges extend to schools, where an English as a Second Language teacher said they were increasingly finding children in their classrooms who didn’t speak English or Spanish, and the community is now struggling to provide resources for children who speak Eastern European or Central Asian languages.
At the hospital, the migrants generally have no ability to pay, which means the costs of their medical care has to be absorbed by the hospital. Dr. Trenschel said that means fewer doctors, fewer access points and less new equipment available to the community
He was asked by Rep. Tom Tiffany, Wisconsin Republican, if nonprofits — which are collecting hundreds of millions of dollars to help accommodate the migrants — have offered to pay for some of the care.
“We’ve not received any compensation from anyone,” the doctor said.
And he said hospitals around the country will experience the same thing, since the migrants generally aren’t staying at the border but are dispersing deep into the interior to link up with family — who are often here illegally themselves.
Yuma Sheriff Leon Wilmot said the same dispersion is happening with border crime.
“It’s not staying in the border,” Sheriff Wilmot said. “It’s going across the nation. I don’t think you’ll find a sheriff now throughout the United States that doesn’t say they’re now a border county, because of the impact it’s had on their communities.”
There was some good news. January saw a steep decline in the number of illegal immigrants that Border Patrol agents nabbed. And it saw a sharp increase in the rate of fentanyl seized by agents.
Sheriff Wilmot and Mr. Lines said the rise in seizures is because agents were able to get back on the front lines to interdict drugs, whereas before they were stuck processing the record numbers of migrants.