THE GREAT DIVIDE: ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION ON ONE DAY : DOCTOR

NAME: Dr. Juan C. Ruiz

AGE: 32

WORK: Medical director at a community health clinic in Pico Union

HOME: Los Angeles

IMMIGRATION STATUS: Naturalized U.S. citizen. A native of Colombia, Ruiz moved to N.Y. in 1978 as an illegal immigrant. This year became a citizen.

"Something I remember vividly in New York is going to visit my aunt in College Point, which is a working class neighborhood. Some kids started yelling at me 'Spic go back home.' I remember one day talking to this kid and asking him why they didn't like me, and he said 'Because you come here to take our jobs away.' And I said, don't worry. I'm not going to take away your job because I'm going to be a doctor.

"There are no other facilities for undocumented immigrants to turn to so they have to come to us. This is a free clinic that has to provide for lots of people and that caseload is increasing, as is the acuteness of care.

"For us to think we can ignore the health care needs of undocumented immigrants, it's a farce. Illnesses don't recognize borders or barriers and if we deny health care to undocumented immigrants we will create a public health hazard because by denying health care to them we're denying illnesses can be contagious."

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