They cannot vote or run for office, but many are surprised to discover that receiving an organ also isn’t among the rights of undocumented workers in America.
On August 4, 2013, a group of 14 Mexican immigrants went on a hunger strike outside Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. The group, who has survived the past week on only water and Gatorade, say all they want is to be allowed on the organ transplant waiting list.
“We’re asking for help,” said 23-year-old Blanca Gomez, who needs a kidney transplant. “I go to dialysis three times a week. I’m not going off the hunger strike until I get on the transplant list,” she said.
The 14 patients participating in the hunger strike each need a liver or kidney transplant, but are not eligible for federal health programs because of their immigration status. In addition to being ineligible for transplantation, many immigrants do not have access to insurance.
At least forty picketers have joined in support the protestors, who say they will not eat until they are allowed to meet with hospital representatives, a request that has so far been denied.
Osbeidy Rivera, whose sister needs a kidney transplant, says that organ donation is a one-way street for undocumented immigrants: illegal residents may donate organs, but they are not allowed to receive them.
"If you're not a citizen, you could still donate, but when it comes to people who don't have documents, they don't want to help them. It's sad," Rivera said.
According to a 2008 study by the American Medical Association, illegal aliens donated 2.5-percent of organs over a 20-year period, but they received less than one-percent of transplanted organs.