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Protecting Immigrant Patient Health and Privacy

July 29, 2019

AAP is dedicated to the health and well-being of all children – no matter where they or their parents were born – and supports efforts and policies to protect and promote immigrant child health. There have been reports in Minnesota and across the country of immigration officials using health care facilities to detain or attempt to detain patients.

Below are some recommendations on your rights and how to protect patients and their families while they are in your clinic or hospital from Minnesota Doctors for Health Equity and the Minnesota Immigration Health Alliance.

Patient and Provider Rights:

  • Immigration officials can enter any designated public space within a clinic or hospital and use information that they can easily see or hear.
  • Patients and staff in public spaces are not required to speak to officials or answer their questions.
  • Patient information, including immigration status and information about scheduled appointments, is protected by HIPAA.
  • In order to enter private spaces of a clinic or hospital, officials need a valid warrant.

How to prepare your clinic:

  • Create a written policy designating in which clinic areas are public versus private.
  • Keep documents/computer screens out of public view.
  • Avoid documenting the immigration status of your patients.
  • Designate a staff member who will be trained to assess warrants for validity and able to interact with officials.
  • Provide red cards and other information in your waiting room educating patients about their rights.

If immigration officials come to your clinic:

  • Defer all questions to your clinic’s designated staff person.
  • Contact an attorney or your clinic/health system’s legal representation.
  • Document actions of the officials with a detailed written and photographic account.
  • Reassure your patients that their health information is protected.

Additional information is available through the National Immigration Law Center or AAP’s Immigrant Child Health Toolkit and Immigration Status FAQs.

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