Undocumented Immigrants Take Heart in Fight for Liver Transplant

After marches, protests and a hunger strike, Lorenzo Arroyo is on the waiting list at the University of Illinois Chicago Hospital to receive a liver transplant.

After marches, protests and a hunger strike, Lorenzo Arroyo is on the waiting list at the University of Illinois Chicago Hospital to receive a liver transplant.

Undocumented immigrant Lorenzo Arroyo, 37, had to quit his job at Chicago Meat Authority two years ago because he was too ill to work. Now, after marches, protests and a hunger strike, he is on the waiting list at the University of Illinois Chicago Hospital to receive a liver transplant.

There are 5,186 Illinois residents waiting for a life-saving organ transplant, according to statistics compiled by Donate Life Illinois.

Of this group, 121 are legal immigrants who don’t have medical insurance to cover organ or tissue transplants, and the number of undocumented immigrants with no insurance is unknown.

To help undocumented immigrants with the cost of transplants, state Rep. Cynthia Soto (D-Chicago) introduced HB 4703.

Lorenzo’s older brother, Francisco Arroyo, 42, also suffers from the same hereditary disease amyloidosis, but because he is a legal resident and has insurance, he received a liver transplant. Even though it was hard for Francisco Arroyo to get the liver transplant, hard in that way it was easier than what his brother faces, said Lorenzo Arroyo.

“It’s so hard for me to collect $500,000,” Lorenzo said in a short interview, during which he was coughing several times. “More when I’m not working.”

If the bill is signed into law, it would help Lorenzo to continue to fight for his life in the name of his other older brother, Elfego Arroyo, and his mother who both died of the same liver disease.

Because Lorenzo is not legal, he needs to raise money for his transplant operation. He has raised approximately $20,000, through fundraisers, including a raffle and promoting his bank account, so people can contribute to his cause.

“Everybody has the right to live,” said Rogelio Solano, vice president of the Comité Guadalupano Luchando por la Vida. Which is a committee that helps the immigrants to fundraise money for their transplants. “Most of the undocumented immigrants have been denied care due to their residency status.”

Solano supports the House bill because it would help undocumented immigrants who don’t have health insurance.

To start a dialysis treatment a patient needs to have $80,000, Solano said.

Soto decided to introduce the legislation after learning from Doctors at the University of Illinois Hospital that treatment like dialysis costs more than the transplants.

The bill is being reviewing by the Rules Committee before considered and assigned to a specific committee or veto it.

“ Maybe [the bill] wouldn’t pass this year,” Soto said. “But I am going to keep to introducing the bill until it passes.”

She said that the bill might not pass because Republicans would veto it, since they think undocumented immigrants don’t have the rights of benefits.

Jim Gilchrist, founder and president of the Minuteman Project, critiques the bill, calling it a ploy by Democrats to allow more immigrants to move to Illinois.

“It is not surprising to me that a major political party, through its network of fellow politicians and appointed bureaucrats, would offer whatever it would take to encourage illegal aliens to stay in the U.S,” Gilchrist said.

He said there are plenty of U.S. citizens needing transplants who should be helped instead.

“I believe [the U.S. has] more donees than donors,” Gilchrist said. “I would cater to the needs of the U.S. citizen over the illegal alien.”

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