Nogales is a popular border town in Arizona and is located just 60 miles south of Tucson. Because of its popularity and location, it has become a destination site for individuals to enter into the U.S. without inspection.
It is reasonable to notice a correlation between a high number of crossings without inspection and a high rate of injuries incurred by these undocumented immigrants as they attempt to come into the U.S. These injuries often require medical attention and an ambulance is generally called to attend to the situation. Of course, this emergency response is not free and the bill needs to be paid.
In 2003, a law was passed that called for the federal government to reimburse U.S. cities that are called upon to dispatch ambulances and other emergency services in order to respond to injuries that have been sustained by undocumented immigrants. However, cities throughout the country have had difficulties in collecting these funds.
One city that has been significantly affected by the disconnection is Nogales, Arizona. It was reported that the city incurred an expense of $300,058 for ambulance related services during the 2012-2013 fiscal year. However, as of last month, Nogales has only been reimbursed a little over $47,000.
The law which allocated funds for this purpose expired years ago and was never reauthorized. Since that time, most states have exhausted their allotment of funds, but Arizona was not one of them. In fact, according to the Washington Times, Arizona still had $13 million designated for this type of expense.
Obviously, there is a lack of information being provided to Nogales and the rest of Arizona as to the reason why the federal government refuses to reimburse the community for these emergency expenses. There has yet to be any explanation from the federal government as to why Nogales is being ignored.
This lack of financial backing by the government has led some Nogales residents to become concerned. In fact, the city's current financial director noted that if and when the money gets collected, the city of Nogales will be able to better serve and protect its citizens.
Not only is there a concern about the citizens who currently live and work in Nogales, there is a worry that the publicity surrounding this situation will lead to negative attitude towards the city. Nogales is a fairly small community with a population of only 20,000 and any negative feelings directed to the city may lead to a decline in tourism and other areas of income.
Of course, a topic of this nature will inevitably lead to a conversation involving immigration reform. Advocates argue that these funds are necessary and it's this country's duty to provide medical treatment to anyone that is injured on U.S. soil.
However, opponents would likely argue that the costs of providing medical assistance to immigrants that have entered illegally is too great of a cost. A cost that the U.S. is just not capable of financing.
While immigration reform is a constant debate, the city of Nogales is currently forced to deal with its own immigration dilemma and must endure this financial hit on its own.