Mimesis Law
27 January 2022

When the Choice Is Medical Care or Jail

Sept. 18, 2015 (Mimesis Law) — Blanca Borrego probably never thought in a million years that she’d leave her gynecologist’s office in handcuffs, flanked by deputies and under arrest for being an undocumented immigrant. Even for Texas, it seems unthinkable. Yet it happened. The Houston Press reports:

Blanca Borrego and her two daughters had been sitting in the waiting room of the Northeast Women’s Healthcare clinic in Atascocita for nearly two hours. The last time Borrego had seen her gynecologist was last year, when the doctor discovered the pain in her abdomen had been caused by a cyst.

When Borrego arrived at the clinic last Thursday for her routine annual exam, staff told her they needed to update her file and, after she filled out some paperwork, they asked for an ID. Borrego, an undocumented immigrant who overstayed her visa some 12 years ago, handed staff a fake driver’s license. Then she waited. Borrego’s eldest daughter, who asked that her name not be published, says her mother was about to give up and leave when staff finally called her back into an examination room.

Minutes later, Borrego’s daughter saw Harris County Sheriff’s deputies march her mother out of the clinic. She says her 8-year-old sister started to cry when she saw the handcuffs.

“We’re going to take her downtown, she presented a form of false identification,” Borrego’s daughter recalled the deputy saying. He said their mother’s bond would probably be around $20,000, and added, “She’s going to get deported.”

I’ve had my share of excessive waits in doctors’ offices, but never two hours. Still, I often wonder what on earth my doctors are doing to take so long. Perhaps, they may want to try these guys and get some inspiration to keep us occupied while we are fretting over the waiting period. Based on the amount of time they spend with me, it never seems like other patients could possibly account for all that waiting. Thoughts of the doctors getting in a quick nine holes of golf or enjoying an extra lunchtime martini sometimes pop into my head, but maybe they’ve been checking my immigration status all this time.

The fact that Borrego’s previous appointment uncovered a cyst that had been causing abdomen pain no doubt influenced her decision to wait. She trusted the doctor. This particular doctor was going to examine her in the most intimate way, after all.

She’d even seen the same doctor before, built a relationship. Borrego probably perceived this as an important appointment. That the clinic was in a position of trust, and it’s a doctor’s clear duty to do no harm, and Borrego blindly trusted them and waited so long, is perhaps the worst part of all of this.

When I see unfriendly staff at the front desk of any business, I tend to dismiss it as someone in a bad mood. I assume the sighs and the looks that seem intended to communicate to me the fact I am inconveniencing them with my presence are the product of impatience, job dissatisfaction or something in their personal lives. It never occurs to me that they may actually hate me for some reason, that they may want terrible harm to befall me.

It does not really matter whether the staff who contacted police had genuine animosity toward Borrego, or they were simply tattletales. Whoever decided to contact the police about Borrego probably knew she had minor daughters. They probably knew they were with her, and yet they made her wait so police could place her under arrest. They essentially conspired to deprive those girls of their mother, to abandon them.

Staff wasted hours of Borrego’s time and tricked her into waiting, no doubt fully aware that her girls would likely see their mother perp-walked across the clinic’s waiting room in cuffs. The cops knew all that as well. Perhaps they smiled at her, or perhaps they scowled. Regardless, beneath their expression was a desire to destroy the life of a woman who only wanted basic medical care and was asked to provide identification to get it.

The daughter, who recently graduated from Sam Houston State University, says the family left Mexico for Houston in the summer of 2003. While the family overstayed their visas, both her and her brother were ultimately granted temporary legal status through the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Still, the daughter says her work permit recently expired, so she hasn’t been able to find a job and start her career-which she says is desperately needed, especially now, so her family can continue to pay the bills. Her father, now afraid of deportation himself, has stopped going to work, she says.

Borrego wasn’t even one of Donald Trump’s fictitious drug-dealing rapist immigrants, but rather someone who was once here legally and overstayed. While that, together with her college-graduate daughter, children with legal status, and a husband who works, seem mitigating — the sorts of things that make me want to have Borrego and people like her in this country — there is always another side.

Anti-immigration folks will no doubt view it all as aggravating. She abused our trust in allowing her here in the first place. Her kid were able to go to college here while many citizens’ kids don’t. Her husband is taking a job a citizen should have. And her children are rewarded with status for it. Thanks, Obama!

Much of the anti-immigrant sentiment in this country is rooted in vitriol and vindictiveness, and on the receiving end are women like Borrego. Fox News explains:

The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) assailed the clinic’s move against Borrego, calling it overzealous.

“The sad fact is that many immigrant women in Texas, and across the country, already forgo needed healthcare, live with lumps in their breasts and daily pain, because clinics are inaccessible or put them at risk for deportation,” said Ana Rodriguez DeFrates, the NLIRH advocacy director, in a statement. “This is an ongoing human rights crisis.”

Rodriguez said NLIRH would meet with lawmakers and would rally supporters to draw attention to the case.

“No one,” she said, “should be afraid to seek medical care for fear of deportation.”

There is a widespread obsession with strict enforcement of the immigration laws in this country. Strict enforcement, however, means that we have millions of people who could at any minute be turned over to police by anyone they encounter. Perhaps they will forego medical care, or perhaps they will instead go to unlicensed practitioners. Maybe they would do better to buy all of their goods and services on the black market rather than be led away in cuffs.

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