That Santillan Saga: Lies, Damned Lies, Immigration Enthusiasts and Neosocialist Health Bureaucrats

Remember Jesica Santillan? (Think back before the
Iraq war.) She was the 17-year-old Mexican illegal alien
who died in February after Duke University Medical

her heart-lung transplant.

Recently, Duke University

that it is establishing a $4 million
“perpetual fund” in Santillan`s memory. Duke said the
fund would finance “additional support services for
Latino pediatric patients and their families receiving
treatment at Duke

Wait a minute! What about equal protection? Aren`t
ordinary Americans eligible for these “additional
support services” too?

Fuhgeddaboutitit! Duke`s press release features (in
English and Spanish) this imprimatur from Mexico`s

in North Carolina, Armando Ortiz-Rocha:

“This is a wonderful idea
because members of the Latino community face special
cultural and language barriers. The Government of Mexico
considers the creation of this fund as a major step in
paying tribute to Jesica`s memory.”

Wow–the Government of Mexico!

So that`s OK, then!


Nannerl Keohane,
President of Duke University [
] and tell her how much you

One small question: doesn`t the

“Latino community”
face these “barriers” because
they`ve chosen to immigrate to an

country–to a significant extent, in
violation of that country`s laws?

Why should they also get privileged access to health
by Americans?

The truth, of course, is that privileged access, paid
for by Americans, was the subtext of the entire
Santillan saga. More than 75,000 Americans are on the
federal transplant waiting list. Only 24,000 organs are
available each year. Each year, while on the waiting
list, more than 5,300 people die.

So why give any organs at all to someone who is in
the U.S. illegally?

Needless to say, no-one in the establishment media
had the guts to raise this unpleasant question–except

Michelle Malkin

But it must have been percolating out there in the
Black Lagoon of Middle America.  Thus the Associated
Press felt compelled to run a damage-control story: the
answer, it implied, is that illegal aliens donate
more organs
than they use! ("Some immigrants get fewer
organs than they donate,"
March 2)

This striking revelation apparently originated in a
March 2 El Paso Times piece. "Mexican
teen`s death stirs debate
,” by Diana Washington
Valdez [email
]. Valdez claimed

“undocumented immigrants” represented 2%
of donors but received only 1% of transplants in 2001.
Moreover, she asserted, they aren`t allowed more than 5%
of transplants.

(The AP rewrite of Valdez` story originally went even
further. It reported that twice as many “undocumented
immigrants” donate organs as receive them–
on the
false assumption that twice the rate means twice the
number. Rate–number. Think about it. The story itself
refuted that: it said that 124 undocumented immigrants
donated organs in 2001, while 258 received them. The
Houston Chronicle Online
picked this version up and
it was circulated widely–by Charles Fiske, a Boston man
who spreads news on transplantation–before some less
innumerate editor at AP spotted the obvious error and
fixed it.)

The corrected AP version appeared in at least one
other paper: the Dallas Morning News (Transplants
for immigrants relatively low
March 3,) It too
asserted that illegal immigrants donate 2% of
transplants while receiving only 1%, and that
non-citizens aren`t allowed more than 5% of transplants.

All of which makes a good, politically-correct story.

Needless to say, it isn`t true.

Not, that is, according to the alleged source of
those very numbers, the United
Network for Organ Sharing
, the powerful Richmond,
Va. not-for-profit contractor that has effectively

the organ business under

1984 federal legislation championed by
then-Senator Al Gore. (See

“The Organ King,”
by Brigid McMenamin, Forbes
Magazine, Nov. 1, 1999).

UNOS spokeswoman Anne Paschke [email
] has told
VDARE.COM that UNOS just doesn`t know how many illegal
aliens give or get organs. UNOS simply doesn`t keep
track of that.

So where did the El Paso Times` Valdez get
those numbers? Turns out they were based on UNOS data
for “nonresident aliens”–non-citizens
who are in the U.S.
temporary visas for, say, tourism or education.

illegal aliens at all. Oops!

Actually, some, but by no means all, of those
supposed temporary visa holders probably are illegal
aliens. And UNOS knows it.  The reason: as Paschke
admitted to VDARE.COM, UNOS lets illegal aliens
masquerade as visa holders when seeking organs

That way you can`t tell by looking at the books how
many illegals are getting organs–or even that it`s going
on at all.

Of course, a little immigration lingo should not have
tripped up Valdez. She covers “border affairs” for the
El Paso Times and claims plenty of experience
writing about immigration. 

But, when we asked her, Valdez blamed Paschke for
failing to explain that “nonresident alien” isn`t the
same thing as “illegal.”

Paschke insists she did explain.

As it happens, another of Valdez`s sources has told
us that she explained the difference too: Pam Silvestri
], spokeswoman for

Southwest Transplant Alliance
, the Dallas
not-for-profit that holds the local federal monopoly on
harvesting organs from cadavers in the El Paso area.

Silvestri also denies telling Valdez that 10% of the
organs come from illegal aliens. She says Southwest
doesn`t track that.

“That`s fine if they want to say that, but it`s
not true,”
says Silvestri.

What about Valdez` claim in her El Paso Times
article that UNOS won`t let illegal aliens take more
than 5% of all transplants?

That`s not true either.

That 5% limit applies only to lawful nonresident
aliens. And it`s just a guideline. Doctors can exceed it
if they have a good reason.

Moreover, there`s no limit for permanent resident
aliens–”green card holders”–who took 2.3% of all
transplants in 2001.

There is no overall limit on the total number of
organs that can go to non-citizens.

Nor is there any limit on patients whose citizenship
status is not reported.

In effect, the transplant system is set up to make it
appear that a limited number of organs is available to
non-citizens and that illegal aliens don`t get organs at
all. But in reality, they can have as many as they can
afford–unless they actually admit holding temporary

So the El Paso Times and AP stories didn`t
explain why UNOS lets illegal aliens have organs. All
they did was leave readers with a false impression about
the situation.  

Other papers ran stories on the issue. The (Raleigh,

News & Observer,

(“Access to donor organs for non-citizens long a
topic of debate,”
by Christina Headrick and Vicki
Cheng, March 1) claimed that people from other countries
are allowed only 5% of the organs. (Wrong). The
Washington Post
Citizens Get More Organs Than They Give
,” by Shankar
Vedantam, March 3) implied that the system tracks and
limits the number of organs illegals can get. (Also

What`s going on here?

VDARE.COM`s explanation: UNOS has a good thing going.
Nominally a public watchdog, it has become in effect a
trade association. It doesn`t want its members i.e. Duke
Medical Center embarrassed. So it tried to plant a
damage-control story justifying transplanting illegal
aliens. That appealed to Valdez–but she messed up the
story trying to translate it into the
politically-correct lingo of the El Paso Times.

What`s really significant: nobody shows the
slightest interest in retraction.

Certainly not the El Paso Times, which didn`t
run a

until we called about the error–and then
only further muddled the issue:

“The United Network for
Organ Sharing does not use `undocumented immigrant` to
refer to an organ recipient or donor who is not a U.S.
citizen, as a story on organ transplants in Sunday`s
El Paso Times
implied. The network uses `U.S.
citizen,`  `resident alien` and `nonresident alien` for
immigration status. The 10 percent of organ donors who
are not U.S. citizens applies to the El Paso region
only, and is not a nationwide rate.”

That`s no correction. It doesn`t tell you what was
wrong with the story. It only misleads you to believe
that the error was suggesting that UNOS uses
“undocumented” to mean non-citizen. But in reality, the
story falsely claimed that UNOS data show that the
percentage of illegal aliens who donate organs is twice
the percentage who receive them. 

UNOS isn`t interested in setting the record straight
either.  It has not done so on its web site, although it
has done with other stories it dislikes, like Brigid
McMenamin`s Forbes story cited above.

UNOS hasn`t even bothered to write a letter the El
Paso Times
correcting the error. Paschke says
there`s no need for her to write a letter because Pam
Silvestri promised to write one. 

Sounds plausible–until you hear what Silvestri said
in her letter to the El Paso Times: “I wrote a
letter to the editor saying I thought they did a great
Silvestri told VDARE.COM.

Ditto to the Dallas Morning News.

Instead of pointing out
that Valdez`s story was just plain wrong, Silvestri
praised it.

yes. As I used to say, paraphrasing

Erich Segal
, back in the days when
National Review

criticize immigration policy:
being an immigration
enthusiast (and, apparently, a health bureaucrat) means
never having to say you`re sorry.

even when, because of your enthusiasm, other Americans