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Customs says it's spent $98 million taking care of ailing border crossers

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BY SYDNEY HERNANDEZ, KGBT

HARLINGEN, Texas (CIRCA via KGBT) -- Between 2014 and 2018, U.S Customs and Border Protection say they've spent $98 million dollars on medical services for people in CBP custody.

"The U.S. Border Patrol is sending about 55 people every single day for medical treatment,” said Marcelino Medina, Supervisory Border Patrol Agent. “At this rate, we're on track to send about 31,000 people for medical treatment this year as in compared to last year where it was only about 12,000 people."

According to data obtained by Circa partner KGBT, Border Patrol agents have spent over 57,000 hours at a hospital or medical facility. Which translates to 5,700 shifts spent on hospital watch instead of out on the border.

"One day last week, we did 130 hospital trips,” said Kevin McAleenan, Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection. “That means we spent 60,000 hours of Border Patrol agents waiting at the hospital with people getting care. That's like losing 30 agents for the year."

Agents say whether it's in the Rio Grande which many risk drowning in, scaling a wall or travelling in triple digit heat, illegally crossing the border, whichever way, is extremely dangerous.

"We have people traveling on freight trains, jumping off and breaking ankles and coming off severely injured as they arrive on the U.S. side. The conditions that we've seen for children, congenital issues where doctors have advised this child needs surgery within two weeks to repair this and they got on a bus to the U.S. border and report that to the agent as they arrive," said McAleenan.

According to CBP, for fiscal year 2019, over 286,000 people have been apprehended along the southwest border.

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