Staff members at the St. John’s Well Child & Family Center in South Los Angeles recently had to learn how to physically block immigration agents from entering the medical center.
During a training last month, staffers learned how to read an Immigration and Customs Enforcement warrant and how to “link arms outside the clinic door to block agents from entering,” according to a Los Angeles Times report published Friday.
Pictures published by the Times show medical staff workers linked arms and formed a three-row-deep human chain to physically block ICE agents. At least 36 workers are seen in the photograph from the practice drill.
The “ICE drills” are a clear symbol of where we are today. California has by far the largest number of unauthorized immigrants in the nation. And hospitals are addressing fears in the community as more undocumented patients miss medical appointments.
In previous years, ICE avoided arrests at medical facilities because they were considered “sensitive locations” that required approvals from agency directors. But since President Donald Trump took office, there have been an increasing number of immigration-related arrests at sensitive locations like courthouses and hospitals.
Doctors and hospital administrators at the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals in Oakland and San Francisco have also formulated emergency plans “so that staff members will know what to do if immigration agents enter hospitals,” according to KQED.
Employees at St. John’s, which treats more undocumented immigrants than any clinic in California, told the Times they often hear from patients who express having anxiety because they may run into federal authorities on their way to the clinic.
So far St. John’s has seen an 8% drop in visits amongst undocumented patients across the clinic’s 14 Southern California sites.