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Study: Some Ohio Hospitals Sent Undocumented Immigrants Back to Home Countries

There have been more than 800 cases of so-called “medical repatriation” in the past six years in 15 states, including Ohio, according to a study from the Center for Social Justice at Seton Hall University.

A few Ohio hospitals have confirmed that they did indeed send undocumented immigrants back to their native countries after they sought treatment for illness or injuries.

John Palmer speaks for the Ohio Hospital Association, which lobbies for hospitals but does not regulate them.

PALMER: “I think given the situation at the federal level and the federal responsibility for illegal immigrants that that would be their jurisdiction to address the situation with illegal immigrants. But OHA doesn’t have a policy, and to my knowledge there is not an Ohio law that determines the standards or those criteria.”

Palmer says there’s no way to know how many times medical repatriation has happened in Ohio. Liberal advocates have long talked about immigration law changes. And now conservative activists who are working in Ohio say the medical repatriation situation shows reform is needed soon.

Joe Cole is the executive director of the International Entrepreneurs of Ohio.

COLE: “That’s why we need reasonableness. There are people here undocumented who are working, who are creating jobs, who are filling jobs, and driving tax revenues and economic development, and that’s why we need reform.”

Cole, who represents immigrant business owners in Ohio, says immigration reform is directly related to economic development, and he says it’s especially important in Ohio, which is home to several universities with international student populations.

Cole and other conservative leaders in the business, faith and law enforcement communities are traveling Ohio to talk about the need for immigration reform. Along with them is Alex Nowrasteh from the libertarian think tank the Cato Institute, who says immigration reform isn’t about charity.

NOWRASTEH: “The thing that bothers me the most – and this is the thing that proponents of immigration reform perpetuate – it’s about what we can do for them, what we can do to help them. And in some sense it is, but in a more important sense it’s about what they can do for us and allowing them to do for us, legally and above board, the things that make us wealthier and make us a productive nation and add to our population in the same ways that previous ways of immigration have been allowed to do.”

And Nowrasteh says Ohio is a state to watch because of its role as a bellweather state in big elections, and adds that the Republican Party has come a long way in recognizing the need for immigration reform. The conservative coalition “Bibles, Badges and Business” is pushing for immigration reform at the state and federal level. The Ohio members will travel to Washington for a lobbying day next month.

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.