Apr 29, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Report: Injuries and deaths soar from new segments of Trump border wall

A section of the US-Mexico border wall between San Diego (R) and Tijuana (L) on January 12, 2022 in San Diego County, California.

A section of the US-Mexico border wall in San Diego, California. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Major injuries and deaths from trying to cross the wall at the Mexican border surged after the Trump administration built a bigger structure, a new report shows.

Driving the news: The number of patients arriving at the UC San Diego Medical Center's trauma ward increased more than five times since 2019 — when the border wall's height was raised to 30-feet along much of the border in California, — compared with the period before, UC San Diego physicians found.

  • Deaths resulting from falls rose from zero before 2019 to 16 after, according to the research letter published in the medical journal JAMA Surgery.
  • There were 67 fall admissions from the border wall between 2016 and 2018, compared with 375 between 2019 and 2021.
  • "Most of these patients had significant brain and facial injuries or complex fractures of the extremities or spine, with many requiring intensive care and staged operative reconstructions," the physicians wrote.
  • Most of the patients lacked health insurance and were ineligible for rehabilitation programs or physical therapy, "further lengthening prolonged hospital stays," the physicians wrote.

The big picture: Former President Trump vowed when he took office to build a wall along the southern border.

  • His endeavor resulted in new 30-foot tall barriers, with miles of double-layer steel fencing. The administration built larger barriers in the San Diego area than anywhere else along the border, the Washington Post reports.
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials say they do not tally deaths and injuries resulting from such falls, the Post notes.

What they're saying: "Once you go over 20 feet, and up to 30 feet, the chance of severe injury and death are higher," Jay Doucet, chief of the trauma division at UC San Diego Health, told the Post.

  • "We’re seeing injuries we didn’t see before: pelvic fractures, spinal cord injuries, brain injuries and a lot of open fractures when the bone comes through the skin."
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