On July 23, Fox & Friends centered a discussion on how undocumented immigrants in Brooks County, Texas are "bombarding" the police department with 911 calls. Host Brian Kilmeade ... suggested Brooks County emergency response services might be strained because, "not only are they understaffed and lacking resources, now they've got to deal with illegal immigrants who have no business being here." As an example, the program aired two emergency calls from Spanish speakers each identified on-screen as "Immigrant." In the first, a distressed male requests emergency assistance for his cousin, whom the man described as "turning blue." Another call featured a man and woman explaining to the 911 operator that they have not had access to water in three days.
During the on-air interview, Kilmeade asked the deputy, "So those calls, you have to respond to, even though for the most part, when you get there you realize, they're not even American citizens?"
Co-host Steve Doocy added his concerns about "a small Texas town" that's "forced to answer 911 from stranded illegals in Spanish."
How the show knows that Spanish-speaking people in Texas who call 911 are "illegal immigrants who have no business being here" is unclear. Maybe they're Spanish-speaking Americans with an emergency. Maybe they're tourists.
More important, though, is what "Fox & Friends" would recommend as a remedy to this perceived problem. Should there be some kind of test in which 911 operators check callers' citizenship status before dispatching first responders?
Let's pause for a quick refresher on the point of 911 operations.
There's an expectation in the United States that people with an emergency will call this number to receive assistance during a crisis. As a society, we want that to happen, not just for those affected, but for the benefit of everyone.
If, say, an undocumented immigrant's home catches on fire, we want him or her to call 911 -- regardless of citizenship status -- not just to put the fire out, but to prevent the fire from spreading.
If an undocumented immigrant witnesses gun violence, we also want him or her to call 911 -- again, regardless of citizenship status -- to get assistance to the victim, but also so that law enforcement can try to prevent others from getting shot.
What I don't quite understand is, by Kilmeade's reasoning, what undocumented immigrants living in the United State should do in the event of an emergency. If there's a medical crisis, or a fire, or a violent crime, what matters more: the emergency itself or the immigrant's residency status?
That need not be a rhetorical question. I'd really like to know if 911 services should somehow be limited based on the perception of citizenship status.
Update: I've swapped out the original photo, replacing it with an image of Brian Kilmeade.