NOGALES, Ariz. — Many communities across the U.S. have problems getting reimbursed for sending ambulances to pick up patients, but for one community along the U.S.-Mexico border, the delinquent party is the federal government, which the city of Nogales says owes it hundreds of thousands of dollars for picking up immigrants.
The Arizona city billed the federal government for hundreds of ambulance sorties dispatched to calls from federal agents when they find someone injured, but the government has paid less than 20 cents on the dollar — leaving Nogales to bear the burden of more than $250,000 in the past fiscal year alone.
“We would love to be reimbursed 100 percent. If we were to be reimbursed 100 percent, we could provide a higher level of service to our residents in Nogales,” said Aaron White, the city’s acting finance director.
Nogales, with a population of about 20,000 about 60 miles south of Tucson, offers a vibrant shopping district that fans out from the official vehicle and pedestrian border crossings. The stores, with their clothing, home goods and cheap children’s toys, cater to the 200,000 Mexicans who live a few feet away in Nogales, part of the Mexican state of Sonora.
That proximity also makes it a natural point for border-jumpers, which means federal customs, immigration and drug agents have a heavy presence as well. When injuries occur, it’s the city’s rescue service that responds.
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