A mother and father sit in a hospital waiting room anxiously debating what they should do. Their son, Isaac, needs a life-saving stomach surgery that is the answer to his pyloric stenosis, a condition that causes vomiting and weight loss. They’ve been told that no doctor in the Rio Grande Valley area where they live can perform the surgery. They’ll have to go to a children’s hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas, which means they will have to pass through a Border Patrol checkpoint. Their son is a U.S. citizen, but they are not.
They desperately want Isaac to get the surgery he needs, but they don’t want him to be abandoned to strangers if they are taken into custody by Border Patrol. It is a nightmare decision.
The mother’s stomach drops when she looks over her shoulder. Border Patrol. She and her husband have lost the opportunity to make the decision. They suspect that a nurse reported them. A Border Patrol agent tell them they can go to the Corpus Christi hospital for their son’s surgery, but they will be arrested the moment they arrive and will face deportation proceedings. Border Patrol will take them to the hospital.
The mother and father agree to take their son to the hospital, knowing they will immediately be separated from him – perhaps forever – following his surgery.
For the next two days, the family is subject to around-the-clock surveillance by Border Patrol agents. Even though both parents both have completely clean criminal records, they won’t even let the mother close the door while breastfeeding Isaac, they follow the father to the bathroom, and they follow the couple to the cafeteria.
While still waiting for Isaac’s operation, the mother and father are arrested. Separately, they are driven to the station and booked. The father is driven back to the hospital first. He asks the doctor to delay the operation until his wife can be there for her son.
Sadly, this story is true, as reported by NPR. Let’s talk about the many reasons why it is problematic to hunt down undocumented immigrants who pose no danger to society while they are in sensitive locations, like hospitals and courthouses. First, it is grossly inhumane to add so much stress and heartbreak to a couple when they are trying to take care of the health of their child. Second, it is a waste of taxpayer money to have Border Patrol agents hang out at the hospital or other such places for days. They could have spent that time and money trying to find dangerous or law-breaking undocumented immigrants instead of harassing this couple by their constant presence at the hospital. Third, setting such a precedent and sending the message that all undocumented immigrants will be hunted down anytime they have to publicly identify themselves will cause many more rules to be broken and many more bad, unhealthy decisions to be made. If parents think they will lose their child if they take him to the hospital, they will be less likely to get that child needed medical help until it’s an absolute emergency. Then, not only will the child be in more danger, but health care costs will increase. It is generally much more expensive to treat emergency situations, adding to the tax payer burden. Undocumented immigrants who know they will be arrested for showing up for court or pulling over for a speeding violation will be more likely to skip court dates or run from the police, causing increased risk for the public and police officers.
We need to bring back Obama-era protections for undocumented immigrants in sensitive spaces and shift our priorities to searching for those persons who are causing problems in society. Please join us in calling for our political leaders to make these changes in our immigration policy. We must speak out regarding what is humane and right for other people and for what makes the most sense for our society-at-large.