Sun | Dec 8, 2019

Border Patrol’s growing presence at US hospitals creates fear

Published:Thursday | October 17, 2019 | 3:14 PM
In this image taken from video provided by the Florida Immigrant Coalition, border patrol agents escorts a woman to a patrol car on Sunday, October 13, 2019, at Aventura Hospital in Aventura, Florida. (Florida Immigrant Coalition via AP)

MIAMI (AP) — An armed Border Patrol agent roamed the hallways of an emergency room in Miami on a recent day as nurses wheeled stretchers and medical carts through the hospital and families waited for physicians to treat their loved ones.

The agent in the olive-green uniform freely stepped in and out of the room where a woman was taken by ambulance after throwing up and fainting while being detained on an immigration violation, according to advocates who witnessed the scene.

The presence of immigration authorities is becoming increasingly common at health care facilities around the country, and hospitals are struggling with where to draw the line to protect patients’ rights amid rising immigration enforcement in the Trump administration.

Some doctors say this increased presence could undermine public health in cities with large immigrant populations, frightening patients who need care and prompting them to avoid hospitals.

Normally, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and Border Patrol agents enter hospitals when detainees require emergency medical services or specialised care.

In many cases, agents escort sick immigrants to the hospital after apprehending them at the border. In some instances, they have detained them after leaving a hospital.

In 2017, Border Patrol agents followed a 10-year-old immigrant with cerebral palsy to a Texas hospital and took her into custody after the surgery.

She had been brought to the U.S. from Mexico when she was a toddler.

Doctors, lawyers and family members have complained about immigrants being shackled in hospitals and the intrusive presence of uniformed agents in exam rooms during treatment and discussions with physicians about medical care.

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