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Officials concerned about migrant health care in wake of record-breaking surge

U.S. Customs and Border Protection cited the growing amount spent on migrant healthcare, among the many border topics at a news conference Tuesday.

As the number of migrant families crossing the southwest border was again breaking records, officials said Tuesday.

“The system “is well beyond capacity, and remains at the breaking point,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection Kevin McAleenan said at the news conference.

“They’ve been through a lot,” said Rosalio Sosa, a coordinator with the Christian Baptist Fellowship who works at Caminos De Vida in the Lower Valley. “They’ve crossed rivers, waters and they’re infected. But what they got here (in El Paso) a lot of illness.”

After the deaths of two migrant children in Border Patrol custody, the agency stepped up medical screenings. It also announced sweeping changes including more rigorous interviews as migrants come into the system in addition to more resources devoted to medical care.

Currently, border patrol is sending an average of 55 people per day for medical care, according to United States Border Patrol Chief of Operations Brian Hastings.

“We’re on track to refer approximately 31,000 individuals for medical treatment this year as compared to 12,000 last fiscal year,” said Hastings.

McAleenan said a new processing center would be built in El Paso, Texas, that will be better suited to manage families and children and handle medical care concerns – but it’s not a permanent solution.

“While our enhanced medical efforts will assist in managing the increased flows, the fact is that these solutions are temporary and this solution is not sustainable,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sosa said volunteers are doing what they can to help.

“Bring medicines,” said Sosa. “We have a doctor that helps us on a daily basis…but still we need more help. Right now, we have one of the kids is very sick.”

Hastings said since Dec. 22, 2018 U.S. border patrol agents have spent over 57,000 hours at a hospital or medical facility.

“This equates to just under 57 shifts of hospital watch during the 72 days at a cost of $2.2 million and border patrol salary,” he said. “Between 2014, 2018 net hard data has shown that we’ve spent $98 million on medical services for individuals in CBP custody.”

For those at Caminos De Vida, money is tight, and there aren’t enough hands to help.

Click here to donate your time or money to Caminos De Vida.

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