ICE warns Pinal Co. about release of immigrant fighting drug resistant TB

Members of Congress and both Arizona Senators are demanding answers from ICE after the agency warned Pinal County Health Officials it would be releasing an undocumented immigrant who is battling drug-resistant Tuberculosis.

The highly contagious disease requires intense and costly medical care.

Pinal County's Director of Public Health said caring for the person could cost more than $200,000, and he wants to know who is going to pick up the tab.

The patient is being cared for at the ICE facility in Florence, but if he is released he would then be under the care of Pinal County's Public Health Department.

"If we are going to get somebody of this status, we request that we be given the financial tools from the federal government to make sure that we can care for these folks, it is just that simple," said Tom Schryer.

Public Health Director Tom Schryer said caring for the man would require housing him in the proper facility, and bringing in security to make sure he doesn't flee.

"If they leave the facility and go wandering, they can give other people this drug-resistant form of TB, and that would be an unacceptable outcome for us," said Schryer.

After learning of ICE's plans, both Arizona Senators and Rep. Gosar and Kirkpatrick wrote to the head of Homeland Security and ICE, asking why the agency is not considering deporting the TB patient, and who would be paying for his care.

According to the county about 35 TB patients are cared for by ICE every year, and they are typically treated and then deported. This is the first time they've been alerted about a release of a TB patient, and the county health director said he was never consulted about a change in ICE's policies.

"When you are told that you are not part of that conversation, not going to be consulted on something that could bankrupt your public health department, that is a pretty big deal," he said.