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Doctors Are Calling On Immigration Officials To Respect Sensitive Sites And Allow Undocumented Immigrants To Get Medical Attention

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Physicians and health care providers at the LAC + USC Medical Center in East Los Angeles gathered on Tuesday to show solidarity with the undocumented community. These medical providers are calling for sensitive spaces to be respected by immigration officials.

Doctors in East L.A. are taking a stand for their undocumented patients and those with Temporary Protective Status (TPS).

“Many of our patients are undocumented and many are living in fear so we kind of see how that’s affected their health over the long term,” says Dr. Mohamad Raad, a physician taking part in the protest. “For us, it’s important to express solidarity with the community, to express our outrage, so people know that even the physicians and the providers here have the same feelings of anger that many of us have.”

Part of the fight for undocumented and TPS patients is getting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to respect sensitive sites, which include hospitals, schools and churches.

ICE claims to respect these sites, but recent activity by immigration officials has many politicians, attorneys, educators, faith leaders and health care providers calling for more restraint.

Undocumented immigrants have recently been detained while leaving courthouses when reporting domestic violence, as they made their way to a hospital for emergency procedures and while dropping their children off at school. Even law abiding DACA recipients have been detained.

In the case of Rosa Maria Hernandez, the 10-year-old who was being transported by ambulance from Laredo, Texas, to a children’s hospital in Corpus Christi for an emergency surgery. On the way, the ambulance had to pass through a border checkpoint. Border agents followed the ambulance to wait for the child to recover from surgery so she could be detained. Her parents had to agree to be detained in order to pass and be with their daughter. Hernandez is the second case this year of a family seeking emergency medical attention for a child and being caught in the same border checkpoint on the way to Corpus Christi.

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) joined LAC + USC Medical Center to declare clinics, ambulances and hospitals safe zones for undocumented immigrants.

“It’s very clear how fear and anxiety affect human health in general. They have long lasting negative health outcomes,” says Dr. Raad. “Not just in the acute moment. If there is an acute trauma, like a deportation or a detention or a disruption of a family, that isn’t just a singular event. Those things have far reaching consequences and not just for the lifetime of the person or the people who are effected but for generations. Those things are passed down through genetic memory. Through narratives of a community. Those things have devastating consequences and you can’t recover from them. Yes, we are being reactionary in terms of our outrage, but when those things happen to people of certain segments of the community, it’s very difficult to get true justice and for them to recover from them. It’s very important for us to be proactive.”

Dr. Raad says that immigration officials have already proven they won’t respect their self-imposed restrictions on sensitive sites.

“We have to rethink our approach to a more ground approach,” he adds. “What can we as providers do? What can we as community do? What have community leaders been doing and how can we use their guidance to help us create different strategies?”

Physicians at the medical center want patients, especially undocumented and TPS patients, to know they are safe there.

Dr. Raad assures that physicians at LAC + USC consider the center a place where undocumented immigrants should feel safe, and are willing to fight for their undocumented patients’ right to access health care without fear of deportation.

“I think we have to use whatever power we have on the day-to-day to prevent the risks of detentions and deportation at our facilities,” he says.

According to Dr. Raad, Tuesday’s protest is a good first step in speaking truth to power and showing that medical professionals are willing to stand up for their patients.


READ: Childcare Providers Are Fighting For Their Livelihoods And A Seat At The Table

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