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Brooklyn Rally Highlights Tensions Between ICE and Health Care Workers

February 7, 2020

SARAH GELBARD, HOST: Healthcare workers and immigrant advocates are gathering outside Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn this afternoon. They're protesting what they say are disruptions to care caused by the presence of ICE in the hospital. Yesterday, ICE officials shot one man while attempting to detain another. Both were taken to Maimonides Hospital to be treated for their injuries. Today’s rally, called Hospitals are for Healing, highlights the tension between hospitals and federal immigration officials. Nancy Berlinger specializes in immigrant health at the Hastings Center, a bioethics Research Institute. She says it's important for patients and healthcare workers to feel safe in medical settings, even while law enforcement officials do their jobs.

NANCY BERLINGER: It’s important to articulate, how does safety work when the needs of health care, the goals and the needs of healthcare overlap with other goals. And it's easy to see that the goals of immigration enforcement or criminal, law enforcement or other law oriented goals are different from the goals of healthcare. And in a more concrete way, you can see how a patient's life could be put at risk if doctors and nurses were unable to work in a normal way.

GELBARD: Yesterday after ICE agents shot one man and injured another during the attempted arrest, witnesses saw immigration officials occupying space in the patient care center. From your point of view, how does this affect patient care right now?

BERLINGER: There is real concern that the presence of immigration authorities is causing fear for other immigrant patients. And this is a real challenge when a hospital is a major trauma center because people could be coming in the hospital for all sorts of reasons. They've been in a car accident, for example. They are experiencing chest pain or all the many reasons why people might appropriately go to an emergency room. And because there is a lot of fear in immigrant communities and immigrant households that is related to authorities and engagement with authorities, that's a real concern that the presence of enforcement be appropriate to the circumstances and not create a problem for healthcare access for other members of the community.

GELBARD: What do you hope that today's rally might accomplish?

BERLINGER: The focus is on how much enforcement presence is appropriate in patient care areas. It's that conflict when, when does the presence of authorities go beyond what is needed for in a particular situation to protect staff or keep someone from fleeing for example, you know to think of situations like that, and become actually intrusive, of the needs and rights of other patients, or this patient, A person can simultaneously be someone who is in custody and a person, a patient like any other in need of care. So how do we make sure that we are protecting the needs and rights of that person who is a patient as well as a person in custody?

GELBARD: Thank you so much, Nancy.

BERLINGER: Oh, thank you. Absolutely.


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