Administrators for the Clínica Monseñor Oscar A. Romero declared the sanctuary policy to the board after caregivers reported an alarming rise in the number of missed medical appointments since the Immigrant and Customs Enforcement sweeps began in earnest in the area in mid-February. Most of the patients who come to clinic for care were born in El Salvador, Guatemala or Mexico, and an estimated 40 percent of them are undocumented, according to Ana Grande, the organizing director for the clinic.
Legal advocates say no-shows for medical appointments at clinics that treat a high volume of undocumented patients are a phenomenon occurring statewide.
"Most patients are not coming to appointments because they have tremendous fear of what will happen to them if they leave their homes," Grande says.
She says the new sanctuary policy was tested last week during a sweep ICE conducted near the clinic: "We had a few community members walk into clinic and ask if they could stay there for a while."
It remains ICE policy to direct agents to avoid conducting enforcement activities at schools, hospitals, places of worship and public ceremonies or demonstrations, according to ICE senior spokeswoman Virginia Kice. Typically, ICE only will target a health care facility or other such sensitive location under exigent circumstances or with prior approval from a supervisory official.
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