JUNE 18, 2008
Although an Idaho law prohibits giving public benefits to those who are not legal residents, the state’s Supreme Court has ruled that taxpayers in one county must pay for the costly medical care of an illegal immigrant because the concept of residency does not distinguish between citizens and those who have entered this country illegally.
As bizarre and contradictory as it sounds, it is real-life state Supreme Court ruling that certainly seems to defy logic. The case involves an illegal immigrant from Mexico who suffered a stroke in 2006 and racked up a $187,000 medical bill at a hospital located in the state’s largest county—Ada County—with a population of about 300,000. The man, Javier Sandoval, was working for a landscaping company when he had the stroke and was taken to a Boise nonprofit hospital called St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center.
Unable to pay the exorbitant bill, the illegal immigrant applied for emergency medical indigent assistance from the county while he was still hospitalized. The county refused because Sandoval is an illegal immigrant and commissioners logically ruled that he could not be a legal resident of Idaho.
Desperate to get paid, hospital officials appealed the decision to county lawmakers who refused to budge and stood by their initial ruling. Then the hospital took its case to a district court, which sided with the county. Finally, the hospital appealed to the state Supreme Court.
In its 4-1 ruling Idaho’s High Court said that Ada County taxpayers must pick up the hefty tab for this illegal immigrant’s medical care simply because he lived in the state, even though he admitted entering the U.S. illegally on at least two occasions.
Still, the Idaho Supreme Court wrote that the Mexican man’s status as an undocumented alien does not affect the determination of whether he is a resident of Ada County. The concept of residency, the opinion says, does not distinguish between citizens and those who have entered this country illegally.
The dissenting justice, Warren Jones, wrote that it’s “anomalous” for the court to rule that “a person can be a resident of a place in which he has no legal right to be.” He further pointed out that because any illegal alien is subject to immediate deportation, Sandoval’s tenure in the U.S. can be nothing more than temporary. He compared Sandoval to a fugitive from justice who is on the run from the law.
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