Blanca Borrego, an immigrant from Monterrey, Mexico, has been living undocumented in the United States for 12 years and has no criminal record, but she was arrested following a gynecologist visit on September 3 due to a fake Texas driver’s license.
Borrego’s husband has private health insurance through his job, so when Borrego went for an appointment with her doctor – one she’s been making regularly for the past 18 months – she didn’t think anything of it. But Dr David Bonilla usually saw her at a different hospital, and when she signed in at the Memorial Hermann Medical Group Northeast Women’s Healthcare Group they asked her for her identification and then realized the license was a fake.
County and hospital officials defend their actions and say they were just following the letter of the law, but immigration activists are in the midst of planning protests because they believe that the arrest will cause immigrants to refrain from seeking necessary medical treatment out of fear that the same thing will happen to them. Ana Rodriguez DeFrates, state policy and advocacy director in Texas for the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, says “medical settings should be free from immigration enforcement,” and that law enforcement officials should ask themselves if women trying to get their healthcare needs met with their families is really where the threat to immigration standards is.
Borrego’s two daughters – one at 22 who wished to remain anonymous, the other 8 and a US citizen by birthright – were also at the appointment and had to watch their mother being arrested. The next time her 22 year old daughter spoke to her mother was from jail. She says her sister has asked questions about whether their mother will be deported, and that “we’re not bad people. We don’t hurt anybody. My siblings and I have done everything right, and we just want to help my mom so she can be with us and not worry about getting detained anymore.”
A spokesperson for Memorial Hermann said that the hospital was not in the business of reporting undocumented patients to law enforcement. “In this case,” she said, “law enforcement was called because of a potentially false identification presented at the clinic. Memorial Hermann was never aware of the patient’s resident status, and first heard of her resident status when it was reported by the media.”
In fact, Allison Hoffman, who is a UCLA School of Law Professor and a specialist in healthcare, said that doctors don’t usually have incentive to report patients living in the country illegally, either because they’re pursuing payment or because they believe it’s their duty to treat them.
If you or someone you know has had a similar problem with receiving healthcare while being undocumented, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Lyttle Law Firm via the website or by calling 215-512-5225.