TYLER, Texas—As a military surgeon in Vietnam, Dr. James McDaniel, saw plenty of blood, pain, and death from battle.
But what McDaniel witnessed at the United States southern border in July at McAllen, Texas, opened his eyes to a new kind of suffering; the pain, misery, and looming death stemming from illegal immigration.
The former Mobile Army Surgical Hospital doctor came to the conclusion after spending five revealing days in what seemed like a South Texas battle zone.
“Close the borders and put an end to the suffering,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do.”
His wife, Nikki, a retired career trauma nurse, concurred.
“As a native Texan, you hear about the suffering and trauma illegal immigrants are exposed to and how dangerous it is,” she said, “but when you see it with your own eyes, it just makes you angry.”
The McDaniels were part of a five-day medical outreach with Mercy Works of East Texas to McAllen, a town of about 143,000.
Their task was to assist with basic medical needs for hundreds of border crossers that officials scheduled for relocation to various destinations in the U.S.
Only Sound was Silence
The medical outreach was sponsored by a McAllen nonprofit organization cooperating with U.S. officials.
“We had quite a large pharmacy we brought with us,” James McDaniel said. “Private donations were plentiful. We didn’t need any supplies from the government.
The McDaniel’s first stop was enough to startle them, they said, but even more astonishing things were yet to come.
“We were escorted to a massive building, early on our first morning, to set up a clinic on the second floor,” Nikki McDaniel said.
“The first floor was covered—wall to wall, elbow to elbow—with mothers and their children, about 250 of them, huddled on the floor on little mats. They had spent the night right there, getting ready to be shipped out.
“The lucky ones were up against the wall, where they at least had something to lean on. The windows were blacked out and we were not allowed to take pictures.”
The large room was eerily quiet, she said.
“There wasn’t a word. The children were huddled against their mothers. They didn’t speak, play, or even cry. The only sound was silence.”
The medical team had to wade through the sea of hushed humanity with their supplies to get the stairs to the next floor.
“Their heads were looking down, eyes on the floor,” Nikki McDaniel said. “No one said anything to us.”
Citizens in McAllen are familiar with this unusual behavior, she said.
War at Border
“The locals have seen just about everything in their town,” she said. “People know all about the brutal cartels controlling the other side of the border and even cartels that operate on the Texas side. The people coming to the U.S. have to get through those killer cartels first.”
A planned medical assessment trip across the border a few days into the outreach was canceled due to a shootout between the cartels in Mexico, Nikki McDaniel said.
“The people in Mexico sponsoring our assessment trip said: ‘Don’t come. It’s not safe.’
“We were told 18 people died in the shootout. We were astonished. A cartel war was right at the border. Needless to say, we didn’t go.”
James McDaniel said: “I feel sorry for these poor people trying to get here. They think they are coming for the American dream, but are thrown into a nightmare instead.
“They have no idea what’s going to happen to them, if they will even make it, or what will become of them once they get here.”
After the border trip cancellation, James McDaniel continued medical assessments. He handed out basic medications such as pain relievers and blood pressure medicines on the second floor.
His trained orthopedic surgeon’s eye quickly saw the need for immediate surgery and hospitalization.
As a retired chief of surgery from Hendrick Medical Center in Amarillo, Texas, McDaniel is now a state-licensed charity physician.
“The charity license allows me to prescribe non-narcotic medications and perform basic medical assessment,” he said, “but I can’t do surgery, or send people to the hospital.”
When he sees a pressing need, all he can do is recommend extensive attention.
“There was one young woman from Honduras with a toddler boy, and the mother had a head injury that amazed me,” he said.
“She had a gash three inches wide and six inches long that went down the skull and peeled back the skin on her head. The wound was all wrapped up in a bloody T-shirt stuck to her head.
“She was basically scalped.”
The Epoch Times reviewed a photograph of the injury, but withheld it from publication due to the gruesome content.
As the McDaniels treated the severe wound, they learned the cause from her upset husband.
“He said they had been waylaid by a cartel and imprisoned in what is called a ‘stash house’,” Nikki McDaniel said. “They would be released if they could pay, but of course, they could not.”
After a few days, the husband heard his captors talking about selling the child, putting his wife in sexual slavery, and killing him, she said.
“He knew nobody would miss him if he was killed. Somehow, he kicked out a little window in the night and got his family away. All those deep cuts they got were from the broken glass. They hid and traveled for five days, then got here.”
Once James McDaniel removed the bloody shirt stuck to her head, and examined the deep wound, he knew what was needed.
“I said to her husband ‘if you want to save her face, you need to get to a plastic surgeon immediately.’”
“But they said: ‘No, no, we have to get on the plane to South Carolina tomorrow,’” Nikki McDaniel said. “We will lose our place in line if we go to the doctor.”
Unable to convince them to go to a hospital, she became insistent. “I told them: ‘As soon as you land, tell whomever you see, that the doctor in Texas said you needed a plastic surgeon today, and say that over and over and over again until someone hears you.’”
“These are just the at-risk people we know about,” Nikki McDaniel said. “What about all those you never hear of? You know we don’t see them all.”
Evil Rules Down There
James McDaniel’s reflection from his five days in McAllen was sorrow.
Nikki McDaniel’s reaction was anger.
“Evil rules down there,” she said. “The cartels rule.”
“Sure, I was angry with the cartels, but I was angry with our government too. Our government has failed everyone; Americans and these lovely people who want a different life.”
James McDaniel added: “The mandate for us (doctors and nurses) is to protect and serve those who are in front of us.
“The mandate for government is to protect our borders and uphold the law, but what we saw was lawlessness. Lawlessness brings harm to everyone and it seems our government has simply turned their back on the problem.”
Nikki McDaniel said: “From what we saw, it’s as if the government is blinded to the harm being done to everyone.
“Legal immigration is a beautiful thing, but this is not. It’s horrible to see these poor souls suffering.
“This is no way to treat people.”