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Blanca Borrego Arrest: Undocumented Woman Enters a Healthcare Clinic, Leaves in Handcuffs

First Posted: Sep 16, 2015 12:56 PM EDT

An undocumented woman entered a health care clinic, and two hours later, she was ushered out wearing handcuffs simply because she had a fake ID.

Blanca Borrego visited the Northeast Women's Healthcare clinic in Atascocita, Texas on Sept. 3 with her two children. She hadn't seen her gynecologist in one year, since she'd discovered that abdominal pain was caused by a cyst, so she sat for two hours waiting for assistance.

Before being seen, Borrego filled out the clinic's paperwork. She was told that her file needed updating, and when she was asked for ID, she used a fake driver's license as a form of identification. When she readied to leave after waiting, the staff finally called her into the examination room. Several minutes later, Harris County Sheriff's deputies marched Borrego out of the clinic, handcuffed. Her two children, who watched on and they began to cry.

Borrego, who overstayed her visa 12 years ago, was charged with one felony count of tampering with a government record. Her attorney, Clarissa Guajardo, indicated that the fake Social Security card found in Borrego's purse, helped to contribute to charges against her. Guajardo expressed dissatisfaction over the clinic's callous decision to call the police on an undocumented immigrant trying to access healthcare, simply because she was under suspicion of possessing a fake ID. The policy HIPAA does allow medical professionals to contact law enforcement if a patient is violent, committing a crime on the premises, or in the case of emergencies. However, Borrego's crime, possessing a fake ID, was certainly not a violent crime.

"Blanca Borrego's arrest is yet another reminder of the unnecessary challenges that immigrants face when attempting to access health care in this country," said Vanessa Gonzalez-Plumhoff, Director of Latino Leadership and Outreach, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in an e-mail sent to Latin Post. "Members of the immigrant community are our neighbors and our friends, their children sit next to our own, and our health as a society is linked. We know that both native and foreign-born Latinos often need access to affordable health care the most, but are the least likely to have access to it. As a result, we are more likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer, more likely to die from breast cancer, and have higher rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections than other groups in the U.S., all of which can be detected, and in some cases prevented, with equal access to care."

Borrego's visit to Northeast Women's clinic, which is part of the Memorial Hermann Medical Group was her first. However, she had a standing doctor-patient relationship with the gynecologist she'd been scheduled to visit. According to Borrego's daughter, it's unclear if her mother's doctor even knew if police were being called to arrest one of his patients.

Her husband, who's also undocumented, provided healthcare for Borrego and their family. Borrego and her husband are unauthorized because they overstayed their visa, but Borrego's children were granted temporary legal status through the Obama Administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. One of their daughters graduated from university, but a recently expired work permit has made it impossible for her to find a job or launch her career. Additionally, Borrego's husband also fears facing deportation himself so he has stopped going to work, according to reports.

Currently, Borrego is being held at the Harris County jail on a $35,000 bond. Her family has yet to bond her out because they fear that authorities might take their money and hold her regardless. Nonetheless, it's unclear what will ultimately happen to Borrego because of her immigration status. If she's convicted of a felony, she'll likely be deported back to Mexico, said Borrego's attorney, who still raised questions about the legitimacy of her client's arrest.

"Borrego's arrest re-instills the culture of fear that persists in the immigrant community that keeps many from seeking the often lifesaving care they need," said Gonzalez-Plumhoff, in a statement. Planned Parenthood believes that all women and their families deserve the highest quality of care no matter who they are, where they live, or where they are from -- no matter what. We are committed to serving all with the highest quality of care, without judgment."

Anti-immigrant sentiment continues to endanger the stability of undocumented immigrant families dwelling the U.S. Arresting women and men while they're seeking health care discourages undocumented individuals from seeking necessary medical treatment, and similar fears keep the undocumented community from reaching out to police when they feel that they are in danger.

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