Are Covid-Sick Foreign Nationals Illegally Crossing from Mexico to Take Empty American Hospital Beds?

By Todd Bensman as originally published June 10 by the Center for Immigration Studies

Media reporting has it that Corona-virus is now “jumping the border” from Mexico and creating a new crisis in the hospitals of American border states. The narrative is that infected people who have recently been in Mexico and can’t find beds in that country’s overwhelmed facilities are crossing the border in droves to take beds in American facilities.

But the coverage about who they are is evasive, factually challengeable and threads the needle around questions the American public deserves to know about this new influx development; Are covid-infected Mexican and Central American citizens or others, with no legal status, illegally crossing the border to take beds and care — at U.S. taxpayer expense — that American citizens suffered terrible economic lock downs to free up for Americans?

This June 7 piece in the New York Times by Miriam Jordan, for instance, insists that since President Trump closed the border to all non-essential crossings, the covid patient influx from Mexico are “U.S. green card holders and American citizens.” The Mexico-based U.S. citizens, the story points out in a sub-headline and in the body of the story, are retirees and business people who live part-time in Mexico. The Mexicans must be green-card holders because, the reasoning goes, illegal immigrants aren’t allowed to cross right now. Or something like that.

Maybe some — or even every one of the sick border-crossers — are Americans or Mexican green-card holders.

But provides no support or even attribution for the assertion that all are legal and entitled to the facilities, which is odd in that a factual basis for the claim would be of interest to so many people and lay to rest certain policy choices, such as involving the Border Patrol prior to hospital admissions to start deportation proceedings. Or deciding NOT to do so. Jordan failed to provide so much as a perfunctory “hospital officials say,” or “a review of admittance records shows,” or “Times interviews with 27 patients indicate” in her passing assertion that all the patients were legal and entitled to the hospital beds. It appears as though the writer just plucked this information from her own imagination, and her editors let it fly.

As a former newspaper journalist of 20-plus years myself (with undergraduate and graduate degrees in journalism), I know that newspaper reporting ethics, training and policy have always required credible attribution and shoe-leather reporting to support important factual assertions like this. A thesis or dissertation would require end-note citations.

In this omission of evidence, citation, or attribution of any sort, the Times story skirts the public policy question to which a great many American citizens and voters want to know the answer, which is whether illegal migrants are coming in and taking the beds Americans suffered to free up for themselves.

American voters and citizens can and should argue that human decency and Hippocratic oaths require that America care for illegally present non-citizens who need help. But American voters also should have a chance to counter that Mexico should be entirely responsible for the consequential fall-out from its policy choices, that its government expand facilities for its sick citizens.

It’s been well-reported that Mexico has eschewed policies to limit the spread of covid, flatten the curve for its hospital system, and fails even to track what’s happening. Its hospitals are overwhelmed.

But if American hospitals are now starting to suffer the consequences, the public deserves to know basic information such as who, why, and at what costs so that decisions might be made to either keep these beds available for U.S. citizens or openly expand capacity to handle non-citizens, even if they illegally enter.

Arizona media is reporting sharp spikes in Covid cases without any reference at all to Mexico, leaving the impression that state re-openings, rather than infected border-crossers from Mexico, are the cause. The omissions are so egregious they seem almost purposeful and certainly leave the media organizations open to charges of political bias.

This May 27 Arizona Republic (azcentral news) article, for instance, reported that Covid patients at Yuma Regional Medical Center had tripled over the previous two weeks to 797 patients, among whom 13 died, and that Arizona emergency room visits related to the pandemic had reached a new one-day high over Memorial Day weekend. (The June 7 NY Times piece reported the number had doubled since Memorial Day to 1,510).

Yuma, Arizona

I’ve been to Yuma many times. It’s a relatively small community on the Mexican border where any entirely indigenous outbreak generating 13 deaths is simply implausible on its face. Not a single word addresses who they are and from where they came. The June 7 Times story finally noted that many of these patients had come in from Mexico, albeit with the questionable assertion that all were green-card holders and American citizens.

Are non-citizens from Central America or Africa or Mexico contributing? You just can’t know this by any of the public reporting, but there are indications that the pattern of border-crossings reported as happening in California and Arizona also are developing along the Texas border with Mexico too. Texas is reporting record numbers of hospitalizations, as well, seemingly attributed to its reopening and not even pretending to determine if Mexican illegals are among them. The Washington Post this week reports that as of Tuesday, Texas reported two consecutive days of “record-breaking” coronavirus hospitalizations and a 36 percent increase in new cases since Memorial Day.

Starr, Cameron, Webb, and Hidalgo counties are all up, as is El Paso County, according to state health department data. This June 8 local television station reported low supplies of the drug remdesivir in Rio Grande Valley hospitals along the Mexican border “as the number of critical patients rises.”

No mention of who they are or how they got there, of course.

Speculation and gossip always arise in the absence of facts.

Mine is that I strongly suspect sick Mexican citizens (and maybe Central Americans and migrants of other nationalities) are illegally entering the United States and making it to American hospitals because their government failed them. And also that these spikes are being blamed, not on illegal aliens, but rather on the economic reopening of the border states.

Their filling of hospital beds that Americans suffered to keep free might well prove controversial in the public square, but Americans can take the truth.

I’ll be happy to be proven wrong in my admitted suppositions. But to do that, American media outlets are going to have to do the hard work and just shoot straight.

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Todd Bensman

Todd Bensman is Senior National Security Fellow for the Center for Immigration Studies, a 9-year counterterrorism intelligence manager, and 23-year journalist