Binational Health Fair held in Dallas to help North Texans in need

Thousands of North Texans without health insurance received free medical services Saturday.

It was the first time in a year that Maria Ruiz, who is unemployed and uninsured, was able to see a doctor.

"It's important for me to know that I don’t have cancer, and I don’t have money to go to the doctor to do that," she said.

Thousands of Hispanics in North Texas are in the same position.

LULAC, the nation’s largest and oldest Latino civil rights group, is working to get them access to health care.

On Saturday, LULAC, along with Alliance for Progress, hosted the 19th annual Binational Health Fair in Dallas at Mountain View College.

They offered free medical services, such as dental and vision screenings.

"We do understand that health is crucial for people to avail themselves of educational opportunities," said Dr. Beatriz Joseph, president of Mountain View College.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Texas is the most uninsured state in the country.

The Hispanic population holds the highest percentage.

For many it's the financial burden, and there is also a level of fear.

"I mean, I don’t have the papers to get the insurance because they always ask you,” Ruiz added. “If you have this, or you have that, or you need to have a job."

But LULAC officials say the fear has heightened since the mass shooting in El Paso.

"They feel like they're being targeted. That their very identity, that the languages they may speak, whether it's English, Spanish, Spanglish, may be used against them,” LULAC CEO Sindy Benavides said. “What we saw in El Paso was our identities as Latinos being used as a weapon against us."

The language barrier can also be a deterrent for Hispanics seeking health care.

Dr. Guillermo Quiceno, who represents UT Southwestern, was among nearly 100 organizations and agencies providing bilingual help at the fair.

He said it's a rarity among the medical field.

“We are probably the ethnicity that has the need the most, especially in a place like Dallas,” he said. “You look at the population that we serve in the county hospital, about 60 percent of the population are Hispanic. So if you have somebody that speaks Spanish, it is really a big help."