This week, federal immigration agents in Texas stalked a 10 year old girl with cerebral palsy to the hospital where she was receiving emergency gall bladder surgery for a life-threatening condition. Taking advantage of this moment of vulnerability, they captured this girl at the hospital and have now imprisoned her at one of their loosely regulated detention facilities. Federal guidance lists health care settings as “sensitive locations” which are supposed to be protected from immigration raids because discouraging people from seeking needed medical care out of fear of predatory immigration agents is an attack on their health and safety.
As a doctor who believes that the value of a human being’s health and safety is not contingent on their documentation status but rather on their inherent human worth, I am appalled by the work of U.S. immigration agents who seems to be eternally at odds with my work to keep my fellow human beings safe and healthy.
Because of this, I want to take a moment to outline how I think medical professionals should interact with U.S. immigration agents in healthcare settings and to highlight the work of some amazing organizations in the Seattle area who are working to uphold the dignity of all people, regardless of documentation status.
Interacting with immigration agents
- When immigration agents are in your medical facility, report them immediately. In Washington, you can report them to 1-844-724-3737. Elsewhere, you can report to 1-844-363-1423.
- Make sure the family being harassed by immigration agents are connected to local legal support. In Seattle, patients can call the Seattle-King County Immigrant Legal Defense Network at 206-816-3870.
- Do not comply with any request from an immigration agent, no matter how modest it may seem, without an explicit court order that has been verified by your hospital’s legal department or a local legal justice group like the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.
- Even if there is a valid court order, consider public non-cooperation as a form of peaceful protest. If there is time, work with local activist groups to develop a optimal strategy for this action (such as alerting press in advance).
People doing good work
In Seattle, there are several prominent advocacy groups that are doing great work on behalf of the immigrant community.
- El Centro de la Raza offers both direct aid to immigrant families and advocacy on their behalf. Among their many services is safety planning work where they help families make advanced plans in anticipation of immigration raids. This includes documentation of who is to have custody of children and financial arrangements to make a parents savings and assets available to their children should the parents be deported. These conversations are traumatizing in and of themselves, but they are a necessary evil in the face of the cruelty of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
- Donate to El Centro de la Raza here.
- Washington Dream coalition is a group led by undocumented youth in Washington. They do a great deal of advocacy on behalf of DACA (Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals) recipients, which is especially important given the Trump administration’s attacks on this group who had some legal protections in the Obama administration. When ICE detained Daniel Ramirez Medina–a DACA recipient–this year, the Washington Dream Coalition was on the front lines fighting for his release which was eventually won.
- Donate here.
- NWIRP provides community education, litigation against unjust immigration law, and direct legal aid to immigrant families.
- Donate here.
- Colectiva also provides legal education to communities and direct legal aid to immigrant families.
- Donate here.
- The Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network is a newer organization, established after Trump’s election, to organize solidarity actions with Washington’s immigrant community. A lot of their work involves developing rapid response networks to respond quickly and effectively to ICE raids. Additionally, they work to coordinate temporary housing, transportation, mental health support for families affected by raids.
- Donate here.
What you can do today
- Donate to or volunteer with any/all of the organizations above
- If you see ICE, report the activity to 1-844-724-3737 and use your phone to record them.
- Text “JOIN” to 253-201-2833 to receive alerts when there are immigration raids so that you can directly support the community being attacked. Also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org so that they can send a reporter to to site.
- Never cooperate with ICE agents.