When President Trump signed an Executive order on Wednesday to withhold funds from and even punish sanctuary cities, he may have also inadvertently robbed victims of the 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attack from receiving the treatment they need to recover from their injuries. This move only adds to the long and arduous road that many of these victims have already faced in regard to receiving workers’ compensation benefits for injuries sustained by the attack.
What is a Sanctuary City?
A sanctuary city or county is a place that has adopted a policy of protecting illegal immigrants by refusing to adhere to federal immigration policy, such as forbidding local law enforcement to inquire about a person’s immigration status or even declining to honor certain ICE requests to detain immigrants. Many cities and counties in California, including San Bernardino County, have been labeled as sanctuaries due to the passage of the 2014 TRUST Act which limits local law enforcement from holding immigrants accused of certain crimes beyond their jail sentences, regardless of their actual status as sanctuary cities.
The Fight for Compensation
Since the attack targeted a San Bernardino County Department of Public Health training event, those who were injured had their claims for treatment fall under the county administered workers’ compensation program. But as many of the victims will tell, the path to getting appropriate treatment has been anything but straightforward. Although the attack took place in December of 2015, just this week it was reported that at least 10 victims are still having trouble receiving compensation.
Amanda Gaspard, who still has shrapnel from two bullets embedded in her leg, has been denied a bone graft surgery and lives in constant pain every day. Valerie Kallis-Weber has bullet fragments in her pelvis as well as serious psychological trauma and tissue damage, but has been told that not only is her antidepressant medication being withdrawn, but her occupational therapy and visits from a home health aide are being cut off. Hanan Megalla, was shot four times, suffering nerve damage and bone fractures, but still has trouble getting approved for medication. This is just a snap shot of the challenges that some of these victims are currently facing, let alone what many others within the California workers’ compensation system struggle with yearly.
According to the County Board of Supervisors, an outside firm called IW Care Connection has been put in charge of streamlining the treatment process for victims. However, as many explain, the firm has either been slow to contact them, has not helped with delays and hurdles regarding treatment, or has flat out not contacted them at all. There have also been issues with sharing employee contact information as well as redacted personal and medical data, thus leading to even further delays than have already been experienced by the victims.
How Does This All Tie in?
As stated above, if San Bernardino is considered a sanctuary city in the eyes of the Federal government, then via the recent Executive order, funding towards worker’s compensation benefits for these victims could be even more drastically cut or even erased completely. Especially considering that IW Care Connection, the entity that is providing medical oversight for treatment, is paid for by the county, if the funding goes, so too will the framework for medicine and treatment being allocated to these patients.
Several state lawmakers, professors of law, and workers’ comp lawyers in San Bernardino have spoken up and pointed to the 10th amendment, saying that the removal of funding based on the refusal of destructive immigration programs is unconstitutional, so it appears as if there will be a long legal battle ahead. This does not even take into account the fact that the entire reasoning behind this Executive order is flawed, with sanctuary counties seeing less crime than non-sanctuary counties.
Regardless of where you stand on immigration, the San Bernardino terror attack victims should not be the ones to suffer from this Executive order. Moreover, the California workers’ compensation system has a duty to help rehabilitate these victims which is long overdue. One can hope that treatment for these victims is on its way, and if funding is indeed threatened, that they will find respite from the actions of California lawmakers.
Update (2/9/2017): A White House petition calling on President Trump to compel local officials to approve the medical care that these victims needs has been started. To view and sign the petition, click here.
Header image via wikimedia commons.