Medical providers are challenging federal immigration policies that they say treat illegal immigrants like criminal felons, including shackling them to beds, or pressuring doctors to release them early for detention or deportation.
"Doctors, who have a moral and ethical obligation and duty to care for patients, are actively being prevented from carrying out the practice of medicine as they've been trained to practice it," Kathryn Hampton of Physicians for Human Rights told The New York Times Monday.
The nonprofit advocacy group released a report detailing "cases in which it said optimal health care was compromised by stepped-up immigration security," the Times reports.
Officials of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement declined to discuss the issue, referring the Times instead to written guidelines on how agents are to supervise detained illegal immigrants who have been taken to medical centers.
Many of the exploding number of illegal immigrants arriving at the southern U.S. border are ill, some critically, or require medical treatment for maladies suffered during the trek from Central America or other countries.
Doctors told the Times that the necessary follow-up care for long-term illegal immigrants often does not occur, and that they have been barred from discussing information about critically ill patients with family members.
In addition, agency vehicles parked near hospital entrances are raising fears in illegal immigrants, undermining general immigrant care.
Dr. Patricia Lebensohn, an Arizona family physician, complained that Border Patrol agents are often in patients' rooms.
But that only "makes sense if you have a prisoner that’s convicted of murder, but this is a different population, especially the asylum seekers," she told the Times. "They're not criminals."
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