US hospitals send hundreds of immigrants back home

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By DAVID PITT, Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Hundreds of immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally have been sent back to their home countries by hospitals seeking to curb the cost of caring for them.

A recent report compiled by immigrant advocacy groups made a rare attempt to determine how many immigrants are removed through an obscure process known formally as "medical repatriation."

The Center for Social Justice and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest concluded that at least 600 immigrants were sent home over the past five years.

In interviews with immigrants, their families, attorneys and advocates, The Associated Press reviewed together the process, which allows hospitals to put patients on chartered flights, often while they are still unconscious.

Immigrant advocates are concerned that the practice could expand after implementation of federal health care reform.

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