PBS News Hour – May 29, 2023 – Ariana Araiza / Phil Maravilla
An influx of migrants has overwhelmed local governments on the U.S.-Mexico border. In El Paso, Texas, nearly 38,000 migrants have been allowed entry so far in 2023, though weekly entries are down slightly since the expiration of Title 42 earlier this month. Cronkite News reporter Ariana Araiza introduces us to some of the volunteers stepping in to address health needs as migrants enter the U.S.
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at El Paso volunteers like Dr. Glenn Fennelly and medical student Soroush Omidvarnia are part of a larger humanitarian effort to reinforce an El Paso medical system already overwhelmed by migrants. Fennelly leads volunteers from Texas Tech's Border Health program. The clinic provides free medical and mental health care for migrants.
Migrants have flooded into El Paso in the past few months after traveling sometimes hundreds or even thousands of miles. Their sheer numbers have strained the city's social safety net. Many have pressing health care needs, needs for addressing mental health trauma and, in certain instances, addressing the trauma of literally falling off the border wall.
Many have pressing health care needs, needs for addressing mental health trauma and, in certain instances, addressing the trauma of literally falling off the border wall. According to Fennelly "Many have walked in shoes that don't have proper soles. They have cactus needles in their feet. And many have shared stories of abuse, trauma, rape."
Omidvarnia adds "Usually, the patients that we see are here for acute clinical needs. Usually, they haven't had proper clinical care in their life even before coming to the United States. So, it's really important for us to not just provide care for the condition that just brings them to us, but also find out what other needs they have."
At the medical clinic, the volunteer team does their work under the radar. The demand for health care is so high, the clinic would be overwhelmed if they advertised their services.
Dr. Fennelly says "It's a small solution borne of necessity. This is a humanitarian medical response to a manmade crisis."
For these volunteers, welcoming and healing is how they battle this crisis.
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