An agent takes an undocumented immigrant by the arm to a Border Patrol vehicle parked next to an ambulance after leaving a hospital in the city of Aventura, Florida. She was taken there by members of the Office of Customs and Border Control (CBP) after she suffered a chest pain when she was arrested on a highway in Miami.
Scenes like this one on October 13, in which CBP agents take undocumented immigrants detained to receive medical attention, are repeated more and more frequently in areas where the Border Patrol has interference.
So far a CBP operation has not been reported within a medical facility, considered sensitive areas as well as schools and churches for the arrest of immigrants. CBP has transferred people who are in its custody to a hospital, as was the case in Florida, where Border Patrol agents waited while the woman was treated, confirmed CBP to Univision News. The immigrant "was present in the country illegally," added an agency spokesperson without specifying whether she had another type of background.RELATED
"The Miami area does not conduct any operation in hospitals. But agents will transport people in their custody and remain with them until they are taken care of and discharged," spokesman Keith Smith said in an email.
However, the fact that CBP agents take a patient to receive medical attention can discourage undocumented immigrants from receiving help when they need it for fear of encountering a migratory cash at the clinic, medical organizations and activists said. The matter has also generated irritation among doctors who say that the authorities have sometimes handled hard hands on immigrants who are in a precarious state of health.
"The problem is that, when they enter a hospital, the other patients who are in a dangerous condition due to their immigration status can cause panic," said Abel Nuñez, executive director of the CARECEN organization, which provides legal assistance to immigrants.
"You have to make sure that while (the CBP agents) are there they don't ask about the other people on the hospital property, because that's what the memo says they can't do," he added in a telephone conversation, referring to the stipulations contained in a memo signed in 2011 by John Morton, former director of the Immigration and Customs Service (ICE) during the Barack Obama administration.
The interrogation of that memo, Nuñez added, has been more lax since President Donald Trump came to power and toughened immigration policies.
However, Nuñez recommended that undocumented immigrants seek medical attention when required and recalled that, according to the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), hospital workers cannot share patient information without a court order. with any government agency, including immigration. In addition, patients have the right to remain silent if an agent who does not work for the medical facility asks them any questions.
"They have to know that no medical service provider is going to ask for their immigration status information," Nuñez said.
The recent creation of a position within CBP that, among other tasks, will coordinate the transfer of detained immigrants who require medical help and the surveillance agents must give until the person is discharged helps to illustrate their growing presence in clinics. "40% of Border Patrol agents on the southwest border are currently carrying out processing, transportation, surveillance in hospitals … instead of carrying out their responsibilities in strengthening the border," CBP admitted. A statement last May.
In the first half of this year, CBP agents spent 153,000 hours monitoring hospitals in their custody, in the midst of an increase in migration from Mexico, according to data cited by the Associated Press.
"Get out of our offices"
The increased presence of CBP in hospital clinics has also irritated the doctors who are part of the Physicians for Human Rights organization, who signed an extensive report entitled Not in my Exam Room (criticizing actions taken by immigration authorities) under the Trump administration.
In the report, doctor Sara Vásquez said she had to examine a handcuffed patient who was in the custody of immigration authorities. He received no response from the agents when he questioned why they should have it that way if he was in critical condition. "I don't find it logical to have someone chained if they are almost to the point of death," he lamented.
In another instance, according to the report that collected testimonies between June and September 2018, a patient was transported to a hospital in Houston from a detention center because he was suffering from cancer and his life expectancy was only a few weeks. The doctor could not examine him properly because he had chains around his body, although he did not pose any threat to someone because of his weak state of health.
Because of this, the organization puts on the table the concept of 'sanctuary hospitals', where workers know how to interact with migratory agents and can address immigration issues with patients and know their obligations under the HIPAA Law.
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