Faced with high medical costs and fearing deportation, many illegal immigrants avoid doctors and instead seek their cures among traditional healers, the New York Times reports. With an estimated two-thirds of illegal immigrants uninsured, visits to a doctor are often reserved for emergencies. Instead, the immigrants—most of whom toil in demanding jobs where injuries are common—turn to herbal remedies and incantations, or substitute massages for more substantive care.
“I’ve done so many cures that I’m exhausted; it gives me no time to rest,” says one California healer who works with herbal remedies. Visits to the healers are sometimes supplemented by trips to the emergency room and stops in Mexico for pharmaceuticals, but the piecemeal approach results in its share of deaths, the Times notes. Public health experts worry that the trend may boost the spread of disease.