When Blanca Borrego went to see her gynecologist for a routine checkup two weeks ago, she didn't expect to end up in prison. Borrego is a mother of two who's lived in the U.S. for 12 years. She's also undocumented.
The Houston Press writes:
When Borrego arrived at the clinic last Thursday for her routine annual exam, staff told her they needed to update her file and, after she filled out some paperwork, they asked for an ID. Borrego, an undocumented immigrant who overstayed her visa some 12 years ago, handed staff a fake driver's license. Then she waited. Borrego's eldest daughter, who asked that her name not be published, says her mother was about to give up and leave when staff finally called her back into an examination room.
Minutes later, Borrego's daughter saw Harris County Sheriff's deputies march her mother out of the clinic. She says her 8-year-old sister started to cry when she saw the handcuffs.
Borrego's lawyer, Clarissa Guajardo, told me she's been charged with forgery over a fake social security card found in her purse after she was arrested. She's being held on $35,000 bail, Guajardo said, and could face time in prison or deportation.
Borrego's older daughter and son, who were children when the family moved to the U.S., were covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, according to the Houston Press, meaning they were able to get work permits to find jobs legally after they graduated from college.
Guajardo thinks their mother's arrest could have violated the Department of Homeland Security's Priority Enforcement Policy, which says that law enforcement should focus on people with a criminal record or previous run-ins with immigration.
"She has no criminal record. She’s been here a great length of time she’s got family here, U.S. citizens, a citizen child. I think she’s a low priority," said Guajardo.
And under HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), patients should be able to get treatment without fear that their personal details will be shared with law enforcement. There are clear exceptions if medical staff have reason to believe the patient has committed a crime, especially while they're on the medical facility's premises. But these are most commonly used if the patient threatens to hurt themselves or others, or is observed committing a crime like, for example, writing themselves fraudulent prescriptions.
"But this wasn’t like that. The only victim in this is my client and her children. There’s nobody that was harmed by it. The doctor got paid, the insurance company was paid its premiums," said Guajardo. Borrego has health insurance through her husband's job.
Fusion contacted the clinic, Northeast Women's Healthcare in Atascocita, which is part of the Memorial Hermann Health System in Texas. Clinic staff said they couldn't comment, but a spokesperson for Memorial Hermann said in a statement that the staff were not aware of Borrego's immigration status when they called police, and that it isn't Memorial Hermann policy to deny service to undocumented patients. Here's the full statement:
As part of our policy and patient privacy requirements, we do not report any undocumented patients to law enforcement. In this case, law enforcement was called because of a potentially false identification presented at the clinic. It was clear to the individual who received the ID that it was false
Memorial Hermann was never aware of the patient’s resident status, and first heard of her resident status when it was reported by media.
Memorial Hermann does not exclude, deny benefits to, or otherwise discriminate against any person who presents at any of our facilities. Memorial Hermann's responsibility and commitment is to care for all patients.
Guajardo said that ICE has not filed a detainer, which would mean that Borrego would have to stay in jail even if her family is able to come up with the bond money. She said local activists are trying to help raise the $35,000 the family needs.