We assume the doctor's office is one of the safest places we can be, but an undocumented Texas mom was arrested this week when she went to her gynecologist's office for treatment and presented fake IDs.
Although Blanca Borrego had seen the doctor previously at another location and had private health insurance through her husband's work, sheriff's deputies handcuffed her in front of her 8-year-old and 22-year-old daughters, and took her to jail. She was charged with tampering with government records, which is a felony, and held on a $35,000 bond. Borrego is originally from Monterrey, Mexico, and has been living and raising her children in the United States as an undocumented immigrant for about a dozen years.
The driver's license Borrego presented at the doctor's office had her photo and address, but a spokesman for the Harris County district attorney's office said the card was the wrong color, missing a hologram, and the number on her driver's license belonged to another person.
Borrego's older daughter, who has a pending legal status application under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals plan, told authorities that her mother has been seeing the gynecologist for about 18 months to treat a cyst that was causing abdominal pain. Although she routinely saw the doctor at another office location, it was her first time visiting the Memorial Hermann Medical Group Northeast Women's Healthcare clinic on September 3 outside of Houston. Since it was her first visit to that location, she was asked to fill out new paperwork and submit her identification and insurance information.
Upon receiving the ID and insurance documents, staff made Borrego wait two hours before she was finally called back to an exam room, where deputies were waiting for her and placed her under arrest in front of her children.
Borrego's older daughter said she got up several times to ask what was going on, but clinic staffers just told them to keep waiting. "I could tell something was wrong because they kept peeking out," she told the LA Times.
A sheriff's office spokesman told the LA Times that when Borrego was booked at the jail, a fake Social Security card was also found in her purse.
A local bondsman posted Borrego's $35,000 bond and she was released from jail Tuesday evening. Her attorney, Clarissa Guajardo, said neither the family nor she has been contacted by immigration officials, but that the arrest violated medical privacy laws. However, the director of the immigration clinic at a University of Texas School of Law in Austin told the LA Times that although the arrest violated the doctor-patient confidentiality relationship, it likely did not violate medical privacy laws.
Immigrant advocates argued that the arrest sets a precedent and will scare other immigrants away from seeking necessary medical care.
Ana Rodriguez DeFrates, state policy and advocacy director for the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, told the Times that a large number of Texas Latinas die from cervical and breast cancer each year due to lack of access to preventive care. She also said for those who can access medical providers, there is also a fear factor that what happened to this woman could also happen to them.