Photo: Border Patrol
The Arizona Human Rights Coalition has asked for the cooperation of the immigrant community to report the presence of Border Patrol agents in hospitals.
Kat Rodriguez, the spokesperson for the coalition, told Efe that they had seen an increase in complaints about the presence of Border Patrol agents in the emergency rooms and even maternity wards of hospitals in cities like Tucson.
“We’ve heard many stories and I myself have seen Border Patrol agents inside hospitals, in the parking lots, people who tell us that they don’t want to go to the hospital because immigration (agents are) there,” the activist said.
She said that the coalition, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, wants to investigate and determine how serious and how frequent this problem is.
“We want our people to report it if they saw the Border Patrol inside the hospital, outside the hospital or if they saw a person being arrested inside the hospital or if they were handcuffed,” Rodriguez said.
The activist admitted that there is no law preventing the agents from entering a hospital, but she said that both the Border Patrol and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have an internal policy not to enter sites classified as “sensitive,” like schools and churches.
“We think that the hospitals should be within this same category,” she said, calling on hospitals to establish rules about the presence of the federal agents.
This is not the first time that reports of cooperation between hospitals and immigration authorities have surfaced.
“For me, it was a humiliating experience,” Miriam Aviles-Reyes, a mother of four, told Efe.
Five years ago, Aviles-Reyes experienced what she called the “worst experience” of her life when she had to endure having a Border Patrol agent at her side “as if he was her husband” while she gave birth in a Tucson hospital.
“The only thing I remember is that every little while the agent told me ‘Go for it, once you have your baby, he and you are going to go to Mexico,’” said the undocumented immigrant.
The woman was detained after committing an alleged traffic violation, along with her husband and her three children, by a Tucson police officer who, upon discovering that she did not have “papers,” called the Border Patrol.
Aviles-Reyes began to go into labor, and so she was transported to a hospital, while her husband and children were taken to a detention center despite the fact that the youngsters were U.S. citizens and had the documentation to prove it.
“It was a traumatic experience. My kids still can’t forget that they took them to ‘jail’ along with their dad,” she said.