nurse with patient files

Immigrant woman may be deported after her OB-GYN’s office called the cops on her

WTF

Blanca Borrego and her two daughters had been sitting in the waiting room of the Northeast Women’s Healthcare clinic in Atascocita for nearly two hours. The last time Borrego had seen her gynecologist was last year, when the doctor discovered the pain in her abdomen had been caused by a cyst.

When Borrego arrived at the clinic last Thursday for her routine annual exam, staff told her they needed to update her file and, after she filled out some paperwork, they asked for an ID. Borrego, an undocumented immigrant who overstayed her visa some 12 years ago, handed staff a fake driver’s license. Then she waited. Borrego’s eldest daughter, who asked that her name not be published, says her mother was about to give up and leave when staff finally called her back into an examination room.

Minutes later, Borrego’s daughter saw Harris County Sheriff’s deputies march her mother out of the clinic. She says her 8-year-old sister started to cry when she saw the handcuffs.

“We’re going to take her downtown, she presented a form of false identification,” Borrego’s daughter recalled the deputy saying. He said their mother’s bond would probably be around $20,000, and added, “She’s going to get deported.”

According to Borrego’s lawyer, staff at the clinic called the sheriff’s department when they suspected her driver’s license was fake, which she says would seem to be a violation of HIPAA laws that protect patient privacy. While HIPPA does include exceptions that allow health care providers to contact law enforcement in cases of violent crimes and emergencies, one would fucking hope that it doesn’t allow a clinic to team up with the police to bust someone for the minor crime of having a fake ID.

As Jessica González-Rojas of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health notes, actions like this send an incredibly dangerous message. “When local law enforcement officials take it upon themselves to act as immigration enforcers, especially to such an aggressive extent, it creates an environment of fear and mistrust that can cost lives.” Indeed, undocumented immigrants already seek health services less frequently, often out of concerns that exactly this will happen if they do. Meanwhile, as we’ve reported many times before, thanks to Texas’s anti-choice laws, many immigrant women in the state have few places to turn to for reproductive health care to begin with.

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St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director in charge of Editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard. Before become a full-time writer, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008.

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Editorial.

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