Health Care and Immigration Status

As the current administration continues to implement increasingly restrictive immigration policies, health care providers find themselves grappling with how to manage sensitive information about immigrant patients and their status. Some feel that immigration status falls under the protections of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA). Yet, at least one state, Arizona, requires clinicians to report undocumented immigrants to the proper authorities.

As the debate continues, the fear of deportation keeps many immigrants and their families from seeking the medical care they need. The following is a closer look at the rights of health care providers and their patients when it comes to private medical information, their immigration status, and law-enforcement officials:

  • Authorized person: Without a warrant or other form of consent from an authorized person, immigration enforcement officers are not permitted to enter private areas of public health centers. This authorized person is usually a designated staff member employed by the hospital or medical facility in question.
  • Information disclosure: Unless local laws state otherwise, health care providers are not required to ask about a patient’s immigration status or report their status to federal authorities. HIPAA laws prohibit releasing personal patient information, such as immigration status, to third-parties without the individual’s consent.
  • Sensitive location: Health care facilities including hospitals are considered to be “sensitive” locations, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP.) This means arrests, searches, and interviews cannot be conducted on the premises, unless otherwise approved by certain immigration enforcement officials.
  • Right to remain silent: While immigration enforcement officials are prohibited from entering private areas of health care facilities, they can enter public areas and question anyone present. All individuals have the right to remain silent in response to questioning.
  • Warrants: Health care providers do not have to provide personal patient information unless required to do so pursuant to a warrant or other court order. The designated health care employee should verify the warrant is valid before providing this information. A valid warrant is signed by the judge, includes the correct address for the facility, and is being executed in the time period listed on the warrant.

Good health care is essential for every person’s well-being. Every person, regardless of their status, deserves high-quality preventive care, routine vaccinations and screenings, and treatment for acute and chronic health conditions. Unfortunately, many individuals who lack proper documentation do not receive the care they need to lead healthy lives because they fear their physician may disclose their status.

Philadelphia Immigration Attorneys at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Protect Immigrants’ Access to Quality Health Care

Fear of removal or other immigration enforcement should never be a barrier to good health. If you have concerns about disclosing your status to your doctor and what the ramifications may be if they find out, contact an experienced Philadelphia immigration attorney at Surin & Griffin, P.C. today. To discuss your situation, call 215-925-4435 or contact us online to schedule your consultation. Based in Philadelphia, we represent clients throughout Pennsylvania and the nation.