Politics

Nogales, Ariz. Asks Federal Government to Pay For Injured Border-Jumpers

| by Allison Geller

The city of Nogales, Ariz. is asking the federal government to pick up the bill for a quarter million dollars of ambulance fees for people injured crossing the Mexican-American border.

Nogales, a border town, is a well-frequented shopping site for the 200,000 Mexicans who live in the Mexican state of Sonora, also part of Nogales. It is also a common site for people crossing the border illegally, reported the Washington Times.

“We have a lot of illegal immigrants jumping the fence,” said Nogales Fire Chief Hector Robles.

As a border site that’s a hot spot for “border-jumpers,” Nogales is heavily patrolled by customs, immigration and drug agents.

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When injuries occur, the city’s rescue unit responds. Last year, that equaled 248 rescue called and $300,058, which it billed the federal government. It received only $47,740, according to KPHO. That amounts to 20 cents on the dollar.

“We would love to be reimbursed 100 percent,” said Aaron White, the city’s acting finance director. “If we were to be reimbursed 100 percent, we could provide a higher level of service to our residents in Nogales.” 

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which maintains spending data, didn’t comment on Nogales’ out-of-pocket spending, only saying that Congress would be responsible for any replenishment of state funds.

Nogales’ unremunerated spending on ambulance fees has been a pattern for several years, according to the Nogales International. In the 2011-2012 fiscal year, the city spent $277,382 picking up injured people at the border and received only $29,919 back.

Not all of those injured at the border suffered while jumping the fence; some were in car accidents, while others had crises from diabetes or other diseases. The Nogales Fire Department doesn’t keep track of the reasons for pick-up, despite talk about creating an electronic system to do so.

With the addition of newer, taller fencing, Robles worries that the toll on the city’s rescue department will only increase.

“The higher the fence, the bigger the impact on ground once they hit, so there are more injuries out there,” Robles said.

Sources: Washington Times, KPHO, Nogales International