SAN DIEGO — A new study from UC San Diego warns of an “unprecedented,” five-time increase in the number of people getting badly hurt in falls from the U.S.-Mexico border wall.
Physicians with the university’s medical center attribute the rise in injuries to a recent height increase from a range of 8 to 17 feet to 30 feet. UCSD researchers published their findings in an April edition of the JAMA Surgery medical journal.
“The height increase of the border wall along the San Ysidro and El Centro sectors was touted as making the barrier ‘unclimbable,’ but that has not stopped people from attempting to do so with consequential results,” wrote Dr. Amy Liepert, the director of acute care surgery at UCSD Health.
“This is an unseen public health crisis happening right now and it has significantly affected major local health care providers in San Diego.”
From 2016 to 2019, before then-President Donald Trump’s administration raised the wall, UCSD Health treated people from 67 “trauma-related incidents” involving falls from the border wall. That number increased to 375 between 2019 and 2021.
Researchers also noted that 16 people have died in falls from the wall since 2019. No one died in that manner during the three years preceding the change.
UCSD estimated that hospital costs related to border falls amounted to about $13 million between 2019 and 2021 at the university’s medical center alone. And the authors said that, because patients lacked health insurance and U.S. residency, many of the injured people were not eligible for resources that would have helped them leave the hospital. That prolonged stays and “impacted hospital access” for locals, according to the authors.
In a news release accompanying the study’s publication Friday, Liepert said “future policy decisions along the U.S.-Mexico border should include assessments of the effects of new barriers, including humanitarian consequences and potential effects on local health care system resources.”
FOX 5 has reported on border falls as they happened in the San Diego area, including one last month that left three people hurt. San Diego Fire-Rescue and other local agencies sent crews to rescue the injured migrants. Two left by ground ambulance and a helicopter airlifted the third.
Read a full summary of the UCSD study, including information about the researchers’ methodology, on the UC San Diego Health website.