Hundreds of New York City doctors want to help evaluate and treat immigrants detained at the United States-Mexico border – if the Trump administration would let them.
The board chairman of SOMOS Community Care, a network of nearly 2,500 doctors in the city, released a letter addressed to President Donald Trump and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen on Monday. The group is hoping to send 200 Spanish-speaking doctors to the border following the death of a man last week who was taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on suspicion of entering the country illegally.
“We must be sure that doctors who speak the language and understand the culture of those caught in the crisis on the border are being utilized to best care for the vulnerable children, men and women who are far from their own homes and their own family doctors,” SOMOS board chair Dr. Ramon Tallaj said in a statement along with the letter. “It’s critical that those in crisis can easily and effectively communicate with health care providers in their own language.”
A request for comment from the White House regarding the letter was not immediately returned.
In December, a 7-year-old girl from Guatemala died of dehydration and shock hours after she was taken into U.S. custody. A second child, an 8-year-old boy who belonged to a family of indigenous Maya, died on Christmas Day after coming down with a common cold and fever.
Their deaths prompted an order for medical examinations of all immigrant children taken into the federal government’s custody near the southern border.
Tallaj said he is prepared to send specially trained general practitioners and expert specialists to help on the “front lines of a crisis in care.”
The unidentified 45-year-old man was taken into custody on Feb. 2 near the Roma Port of Entry in Texas. Federal officials said he requested medical attention and was taken to McAllen Medical Center in Texas, where he was diagnosed with ailments including cirrhosis of the liver and congestive heart failure. He died on Feb. 18 but the cause of his death has not been released.
Customs and Border Protection spokesman Andrew Meehan called the man’s death “tragic” and offered condolences to his family.
SOMOS doctors have offered their services in recent humanitarian crisis, including a 2018 trip to Puerto Rico to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Tallaj said the network’s doctors simply want to do what they can to help ease the humanitarian crisis at the border.
“Mr. President, Madame Secretary: vulnerable, precious lives hang in the balance. We cannot let one more migrant die in our country’s care.”