Return to related text
Immigrants Deported, by U.S. Hospitals
jimenez de2
Eight years ago, Mr. Jiménez, an illegal immigrant working as a gardener in Stuart, Fla., suffered multiple traumatic injuries in a deadly car crash with a drunken Floridian. An ambulance brought Mr. Jiménez to Martin Memorial, a 59-year-old not-for-profit hospital on the banks of the St. Lucie River in Stuart. The community hospital saved his life, twice, and, after failing to find a rehabilitation center willing to accept an uninsured patient, kept him as a ward for years. Photo: Josh Haner/The New York Times
jimenez de3
Jiménez's relatives in Florida were shocked by how the accident had changed him. After intensive surgical and medical intervention, Mr. Jiménez survived, but spent more than a year in a vegetative state. "He was no longer Luis; he was another person," said Montejo Gaspar Montejo, left, his cousin by marriage. "He didn't talk. He didn't understand anything. He stayed curled up in a ball. But he was alive." Photo: Josh Haner/The New York

                     jimeinez de4

Propelled by a migrant's dreams, Mr. Jiménez's journey north was not supposed to end as it did. When Mr. Jiménez borrowed thousands of dollars to pay the smugglers who delivered him to the United States, he envisioned years of labor on the lawns of affluent America and then a payoff: the means to buy land of his own, to cultivate his own garden, back in Guatemala. At the time of the accident, he was living in a place called Indiantown, Fla., where, coincidentally, Guatemalan Mayan immigrants have settled. Photo: Josh Haner/The New York Times
jimenez de5
Diana Gregory, a nurse who supervises case management and discharge planning, said that Mr. Jiménez -- "I will affectionately call him Louie" -- became "like family" to the hospital staff at Martin Memorial, which bought him birthday cakes, knitted him blankets and gave him toys. Ms. Gregory eventually escorted Mr. Jiménez to Guatemala. Photo: Josh Haner/The New York Times
jimenez de6
Shortly before daybreak on July 10, 2003, an ambulance picked up Mr. Jiménez at the hospital and drove him to the St. Lucie County airport, where an air ambulance waited to transport him back to Guatemala. His cousin, Mr. Gaspar, was not apprised. Mr. Jiménez was deported not by the federal government but by the hospital, Martin Memorial. After having spent $1.5 million to care for Mr. Jimenez, Martin Memorial leased an air ambulance for $30,000 and "forcibly returned him to his home country," as one hospital administrator described it. Photo: Josh Haner/The New York Times 
jimenez de7
Dr. Miguel Garcés, a prominent Guatemalan physician and public health advocate, said that serious rehabilitation, of the kind that Mr. Jiménez needed, "is almost nonexistent" in Guatemala outside private facilities. Before Mr. Jiménez was deported, Dr. Garcés predicted that Mr. Jiménez would be taken in by the country's one public rehabilitation hospital and then released in a matter of weeks to his family in the countryside. He was proved right. Photo: Josh Haner/The New York Times
jimenez de 8
Immaculately clean but dilapidated, Guatemala's National Hospital of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation, where Mr. Jiménez was brought on his return from Florida, operates on a shoestring budget of approximately $400,000 a year. Photo: Josh Haner/The New York Times
jimenez de9
Dr. Harold Von Ahn, who was director when Mr. Jiménez arrived and now oversees public hospitals for the health ministry. Several times a year, American hospitals send patients to the National Hospital, which accepts them "because they're Guatemalans," Dr. Von Ahn said. Dr. Von Ahn said that he believed that American hospitals were dumping patients that should be their responsibility. Photo: Josh Haner/The New York Times
More Images
               , the scholarly journal of democracy and human rights
More from
Main / Columns / Books And Arts / Miscellaneous