Blanca Borrego went through one of the worst nightmares an undocumented person can imagine: Waiting for her doctor in an examination room only to have the sheriff’s agents show up to detain her.
Borrego had waited for her turn at the gynecologist’s office for a long time and was ready to leave without being seen when they called her in. Little did she know that she would be detained and a process initiated to possibly deport her, which would separate her from her DACA-eligible daughters and her undocumented husband. The clinic’s personnel suspected that Borrego had presented a fake ID and had called the authorities.
The staff at the Memorial Hermann Medical Group’s Northeast Women’s Healthcare clinic, outside of Houston, Texas, acted in an aberrant manner when they unreasonably took on the role of immigration agents: first by deciding that Borrego’s identification document was not legal (according to her lawyer, the charges brought against Borrego refer to a Social Security card found on her purse after the arrest), then by pressing charges against her and, finally, by detaining her. It is outrageous to see that the clinic’s personnel made these assumptions, on the one hand for Borrego’s personal safety, and on the other for the repercussions their actions will have.
Their betrayal has a severe dissuading effect on undocumented people who may need medical attention and will now fear that something similar may happen to them. There will be people who will wait to be extremely ill before going to a clinic, especially if they believe that sitting in a waiting room may lead to their deportation.
The limits of the confidentiality between a patient and a healthcare provider may be broken in cases in which the patient is suspected of violating a law inside the doctor’s office. The law is not meant to be used in cases such as this one, when, once again, harmless people are being treated as dangerous undocumented criminals.
We are worried that this may be a sign of the effects of the odious debate on immigration being held within the Republican presidential primary. The fact that undocumented people have been chosen as the villains of the movie is not completely unrelated to the instances when some people have been emboldened to inform on undocumented people at a doctor’s office in states such as Texas, or to ignorant people being blind to the fact that their actions are the real danger to public safety and public health.