American Medical Association Takes Stance Against ICE Patrolling Inside Hospitals

Nov 17, 2017

The American Medical Association (AMA) is opposing the presence of federal immigration agents in hospitals and clinics. A new resolution declaring this stance was passed Wednesday by the AMA's House of Delegates, the policy-making body for the association.

The announcement comes just weeks after a 10-year-old girl in Texas was taken into custody by border patrol officials following an emergency surgery. Advocates and health care providers are increasingly concerned about U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents encroaching on hospitals.

recent opinion piece in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggested health care facilities should take an active role in establishing so-called "sanctuary hospital" policies. The Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association has said it's unaware of any hospitals seeking any sort of sanctuary policy.

The AMA is an important voice in suggesting nationwide industry standards in health care, though new AMA resolutions don't always result in new policies.

Dr. Elisabeth Poorman is a physician with Cambridge Health Alliance in Everett and works primarily with immigrant patients. She says the resolution is a good step, but she'd like to see the association take more aggressive measures.

"I think we need more proactive guidance from the AMA about what to do when ICE comes into the clinic," Poorman says, "but also how are we going to bring immigrant patients back into the clinic — people who are currently afraid to seek necessary medical care which endangers them, their families and their entire community."

In the statement, Dr. Andrew Gurman, the immediate past president of the AMA, said patients should not be in fear that entering a hospital will result in arrests or deportation.

"In medical facilities, patients and families should be focused on recovery and their health, not the ramifications of their immigration status,” he said.

Schools, churches and hospitals are considered "sensitive locations" by ICE, which means officials will often avoid arrests in these places, but, there are exceptions to this rule.

This report comes from the New England News Collaborative, eight public media companies coming together to tell the story of a changing region, with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.