The city of Philadelphia on Wednesday became the first jurisdiction in the United States to ban medical deportation in its territory, thanks to a resolution passed by its municipal assembly.
At that session, the City Council approved Ordinance 230649, which amends city code ” Illegal deportation of non-citizen patients to countries of origin by hospitals without their consent”.
Philadelphia, a city without medical deportation
According to the Free Migration Project, a local immigrant rights organization, hospitals use medical deportation as a way to deport undocumented residents who need long-term medical care “without informed consent or with the coerced consent of the patient’s family.”
The Free Migration Program said the new ordinance “provides much-needed oversight to the practice of medical deportation, requiring reporting from hospitals to monitor how widespread the practice of medical deportation is.”
The organization explains that it “ensures that patients and their families receive information in a language they understand to make the best decisions about their health, fully consent to any medical referral” and ensures that there are ways to hold bad actors accountable. “A Pathway for the City to Enforce and Penalize Violators of Patients’ Rights.”
In Philadelphia, several locations in the U.S. have hospitals taking on the illegal power to deport patients.
Several trials have been filed in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas. El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Lithuania, Mexico, Philippines and South Korea.
What are medical deportations?
Medical deportation involves sending undocumented immigrant patients, usually critically ill or in need of long-term care, to their home country without their consent or their families’ consent, and sometimes without their knowledge.
According to the Seton Hall Report, hospitals in the United States have a legal obligation to provide emergency care to those in need, regardless of immigration status.
This duty ends when the patient no longer needs emergency medical care, but in many cases they still need ongoing medical care.
That’s when the problem arises, according to a report by the Center for Social Justice at Seton Hall Law School in New Jersey, where hospitals are reluctant to treat immigrants who lack health insurance because of their immigration status.
“The admission of vulnerable migrant patients and the lack of a reimbursement stream for their medical care has contributed to this situation, in which many hospitals are taking matters into their own hands,” the report said.
“Operating alone or in conjunction with private transport companies, hospitals act as unauthorized immigration authorities and deport seriously ill or injured migrant patients directly from hospital beds to their home countries,” the report explains.
Is Medical Deportation Legal?
These roundups are not carried out by Immigration or Customs Enforcement (ICE), the only agency in the United States with the authority to deport immigrants, but by hospitals that lack the legal authority to do so.
Hospitals rent flights from private airlines at exorbitant prices, which can reach $50,000 per patient, depending on the complexity of the case, according to a 2021 report ‘Fatal flights: Medical deportation in the United States’ by the Migration Project and the University of Pennsylvania School of Law.
According to the report, thousands of patients with chronic medical conditions have been deported by hospitals and, in some cases, have died after being deported.
However, there are practically no official statistics because they are rarely reported because they are carried out outside the immigration jurisdiction.
The impact of these expulsions was last measured in 2012, when Seton Hall reported more than 800 deportations or attempted deportations in six years.
Deadly Flights: Medical Deportations in Pennsylvania