By Steven Zimmerman
Because of my health, I tend to make frequent trips to doctors and the emergency room. When I am at UMC or Sierra Providence, I’ve seen both Border Patrol there with someone they have just taken into custody, as well as the company that runs the El Paso Processing Center on Montana Avenue.
I understand how it works, you take someone into custody, they are injured, and they need to be seen. The same applies to an immigrant in custody- the migrant detainee becomes ill; they need to be seen.
What I don’t understand is why U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is taking migrant detainees to a Veteran’s Administration (VA) clinic in East El Paso.
To find out just what is going on, and why, I reached out to both the Department of Homeland Security, as well as Erika Molinar, the officer listed on the memo San Eli News obtained. I also reached out to the VA. I’ve yet to receive a response.
I spoke to a few Veteran’s in El Paso, and each of them say they feel the same way: betrayed.
“I saw them come in a few times,” said Julio Hernandez, a veteran who served fifteen years, when speaking of seeing a private prison van outside the VA clinic. “I get to my appointment, and I have to wait and wait for it. Is this why?”
Another veteran told me that he set an appointment in October of 2019, but was not seen until January 27, 2020.
“I feel betrayed,” said Christ Yost, an Army veteran and former ICE officer. “We have 40,000 plus homeless Veteran’s in the United States. Roughly 20,000 alone in Texas. In El Paso, we have between 5,600 to 5,800. Yet they [the Government] want the facilities and healthcare my brothers earned to go to people who knowingly broke our laws and violated our sovereignty.”
“I just can’t do it with them anymore,” said Charles Wilks, a veteran in his late 60’s. “They already push off for our appointments and needed care. Now what I need, what I fought and bled for, is being denied us and given to others? No.”
Charles has since decided to leave the VA system altogether.
We will continue to follow this. We intend to find the answers of when this program began, if the VA system is still being utilised for migrant detainees, and precisely who authorised the program.