GALVESTON, Texas—An illegal immigrant who was paralyzed in an accident says officials at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston are pressuring him to go back to Mexico.
Francisco Martinez is a Mexican immigrant laborer who is in the United States illegally and now needs constant, expensive medical care.
KHOU 11 News spoke with Martinez Tuesday outside UTMB’s John Sealy Hospital. He was accompanied by his 7-month-old son and his common-law wife, Brandi Cullen Valderram.
Martinez has been at UTMB ever since a workplace accident three months ago left him paralyzed from the chest down.
“There was no insurance. And since we’ve been here they’ve been telling us that there’s no other option except for him to go to Mexico. They’ve been trying to push, push, push, push, push,” said Cullen Valderram.
She said the hospital even offered a free flight to Mexico. But, speaking through an interpreter, Martinez said he doesn’t want to go.
“What I want to do is only walk,” he said.
UTMB wouldn’t comment on camera, but in a written statement a spokesman said:
”Under state and federal laws we are obligated to provide emergency treatment without regard to citizenship, legal status or ability to pay.”
But UTMB is in a financial bind, because the law doesn’t reimburse the hospital for what it’s spending to treat Martinez.
People who work with indigent immigrants say they see cases like this all the time.
“Every day. Every day. Every day. It’s not the first case we’ve dealt with here at UTMB,” said Joe Compian, with Gulf Coast Interfaith. “It’s at other hospitals in the area as well, of individuals facing similar situations.”
Martinez's wife said he was paid about $450 a week.
“The Americans that hired him didn’t have a problem. Now for them to want to throw him back because he doesn’t have the money to pay for it, I think that’s irresponsible on America’s part,” she said.
Martinez’s wife and son are now living in a shelter. He is living in a hospital. Where they’re going next is anybody’s guess.