Amid increasing levels of anti-immigrant furor, it seems inevitable that something like this would happen. The Houston Press reported on Friday that the staff at a gynecological office in suburban Houston allegedly led a patient who was an undocumented immigrant into an exam room under the pretense that she was going to get her annual exam, but instead sprung law enforcement on her. The woman, named Blanca Borrego, was led out of the office in handcuffs in front of her two daughters, the younger of whom is 8 years old. Borrego is being charged with a felony count of tampering with a government record.
“Borrego’s attorney, Clarissa Guajardo, says the charge stems from the fake Social Security card deputies found in Borrego’s purse after she was arrested at her gynecologist’s office,” Michael Barajas of the Houston Press writes. Borrego’s family fears she will be deported.
Borrego’s older daughter, who recently graduated from Sam Houston State University, says her family moved from Mexico to the U.S. in 2003. While she and her brother were able to get temporary legal status, her parents continued on with expired visas. This was Borrego’s first visit to this particular clinic, but she was apparently following her doctor, who had moved from another clinic.
This story is terrifying on a couple of levels. Most people expect that medical professionals will respect their privacy, not conspire with local law enforcement to get them bagged for low level, nonviolent crimes. Fear of being arrested for being undocumented could scare people away from getting necessary medical treatment. There’s also a question of whether the staff at the clinic violated HIPAA, which protects patient privacy. HIPAA does allow medical professionals to contact law enforcement, but it’s supposed to be limited to violent crimes, emergencies, or when the professionals believe a patient is committing a crime on the premises. Borrego is only accused of having fake ID on her.
On the larger level, this story shows why the kind of anti-immigrant fear-mongering that is being perpetuated by Donald Trump and other Republican candidates could have major consequences. When undocumented immigration is painted with absolutely no real evidence as some kind of existential threat to our society, it’s not a big surprise that some people will become hypervigilant, always on the lookout to catch a “criminal” who hasn’t done anything to hurt anyone else.