City To Immigrants: Hospitals Won’t Ask Status

CBS/AP, May 31, 2006

NEW YORK—The city is distributing a letter meant to reassure immigrants that no one will question their legal status when they seek care at the city’s public hospitals, health officials said.

The letter, in 11 languages, promises that public hospital employees will “keep confidential all information regarding your immigration status.” If workers reveal the information, they could lose their jobs, Health and Hospitals Corporation president Alan Aviles writes in the note.

The letter’s release follows reports from advocates that many undocumented immigrants are afraid of going to hospitals.

In one case, Aviles said Tuesday, a mother of three from Mexico refused to seek treatment for cervical cancer until an advocacy group intervened.

“There has to be a system of trust between health care providers and the patients,” Aviles said.

Adam Gurvitch, director of health advocacy for the New York Immigrant Coalition, an umbrella group for more than 150 immigrant organizations, said the recent national debate over immigration had caused much confusion.

“It’s really important for people to understand that nothing has changed,” he said. “Health care remains a right for all people in America, for all immigrants, regardless of immigration status.”

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