WASHINGTON (WJLA) - A local medical center that treats undocumented children is seeing a costly surge in patients.
Federal authorities say 63,000 undocumented children have come into the United States across its southern border and have been apprehended since last October. When they arrive in the U.S., these children need help, and several local agencies are struggling to keep up.
Sandra is one of thousands of unaccompanied minors who have come to the U.S. this year. On Monday, the 17-year-old Guatemalan immigrant applied for help at Mary's Center, a nonprofit social service organization that, in Sandra's case, is offering health care.
"I feel healthy at this moment, but I need the vaccines, because otherwise I won't be able to go to school," Sandra told ABC 7 News in Spanish.
Mary's Center has seen 500 kids this month; its doctors would normally see less than 10 in that time. The exams are running around $800more than twice the average exam feecosting the organization $690,000, money it says it hadn't anticipated spending.
"We want to make sure that the federal government understands that even a federally qualified center like this does not have the means to take on this many children at one time," said Maria Gomez, the president of Mary's Center.
According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform, undocumented immigrants needing medical care cost the federal government $6 billion annually. FAIR says the system is being overloaded by an unanticipated influx of immigrants.
"Governors, local, county officials, education officials, they're not being consulted at all except to be told, 'Hey, people are here, you're going to have to deal with it,'" said FAIR President Dan Stein.
A vigil will be held at the White House Monday evening to raise awareness about the issue, in the hope that federal authorities will reach out and help agencies, like Mary's Center, that are dealing with this crisis.