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Beverly Hills, California, United States
Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com


Wednesday, February 14, 2024

‘There was a lot of anxiety’: Florida’s immigration crackdown is causing patients to skip care

TALLAHASSEE, Florida — One of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ most controversial immigration policies has led to women shunning mammograms and prenatal care out of fear that they’ll be forced to reveal their immigration status. At issue is a new Florida law requiring hospitals that receive Medicaid dollars to ask patients about their immigration status. Undocumented migrants in Florida are now steering clear of hospitals and clinics, worried that they’ll be arrested or deported, according to 10 immigration advocates, lawmakers and health care officials. Thelisha Thomas, executive director of the nonprofit Healthy Start Coalition in Orange County, said she’s seen fewer pregnant migrant women seeking treatment even in emergency situations — and at least a 10 percent overall decrease in the number of pregnancies the clinic directly oversees. One pregnant patient experiencing alarming pain nearly refused to go to an emergency room out of fear that she’d be arrested and deported, she said. A staffer at the clinic had to personally escort the patient to the hospital. “There has definitely been an uptick in the nervousness and apprehension that a lot of immigrants already had when they had to think about getting treatment,” Thomas said. “But I have faith that we will get through this.” DeSantis’ law is even affecting clinics and organizations that don’t receive federal dollars, and the law applies to migrants even though they don’t receive Medicaid assistance. Officials with the Consulate of Mexico in Orlando, which for years has operated a program offering free health care to migrants from all over the world, said fewer migrant women have shown up for free medical check-ups and prenatal care since the law took effect in May. The number of patients accessing free mammograms services, for example, has dropped 18 percent, according to the consulate. “This fear of anything health related has negatively affected the prevention of diseases within our migrant community,” the consulate said in a statement. The consulate does not receive Medicaid reimbursements. While several states have cracked down on immigration in recent years — including a law in Texas that makes it a crime to enter the state illegally from a foreign country — Florida’s law is believed to be the only one in the nation that requires hospitals to ask patients about their immigration status. Undocumented immigrants in general aren’t eligible for federal health benefits, but some states access Medicaid dollars to help undocumented immigrants. Last year, California became the first state in the country to offer health insurance to undocumented immigrants through its Medi-Cal program, which is supported through state and federal taxes.. Governor Ron DeSantis, center, signed Senate Bill 1718. Governor Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 1718, Florida's new immigration law, in Jacksonville, Florida, May 10, 2023. | Office of the Governor During the 2023 legislative session, DeSantis and Florida Republicans said the immigration crackdown would send a message to President Joe Biden, who they blamed for the surge in migrants crossing the southern border. The law they passed allows authorities to charge someone with human trafficking if they knowingly transport a migrant across state lines, outlaws undocumented immigrants from driving in Florida even if they have a valid driver’s license from another state and punishes companies for employing illegal immigrants. The legislation faced immediate backlash after DeSantis signed it into law on May 10, just three weeks before his doomed jump into the 2024 presidential race. Immigration advocates feared it would lead authorities to arrest people simply for crossing state lines with an undocumented family member or friend. Others worried many of Florida’s 770,000-plus undocumented immigrants would flee and leave the state’s multi-billion dollar agriculture industry and booming construction market without enough workers. Several immigration groups, along with the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU Foundation of Florida, sued DeSantis seeking to overturn the law. But there’s been less focus on the fears among health workers and hospitals that serve migrants. Jean Paul Roggiero, director of community outreach for the Immokalee-based Healthcare Network, said that immigrant’s initial confusion over the law was quickly replaced by a steadfast reluctance among patients to seek medical care because they didn’t want to talk openly about their immigration status just to see a doctor. With Washington divided and power increasingly shifting to the states, governors and mayors are making crucial decisions that are shaping our future. Full coverage » “There was a lot of anxiety,” Roggiero said during a phone interview. Immokalee is a rural agricultural area with a large population of migrant workers. In central Florida, state Rep. Anna Eskamani, an Orlando Democrat, said local nonprofits have seen a drop in the number of pregnant women showing up for medical appointments since the law took effect. She said dozens of immigrant rights groups have tried to inform undocumented immigrants about the law but she urged hospitals to also help tell patients they’re not required to answer questions about their immigration status — though hospitals that receive Medicaid are mandated to ask it. Florida is one of about 10 states that hasn’t expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. “We’re a state that prides itself on being pro-family,” Eskamani said. “It just seems antithesis to that when you create these barriers for someone getting the care they need.” The immigration law was sponsored by Republican state Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, a top DeSantis ally who frequently pushes the governor’s priorities through the Legislature. Ingoglia said during a phone interview that the decrease in undocumented immigrants accessing the state’s health programs could be a sign that the law is achieving what he set out to do. The law, he said, is meant to keep illegal immigrants from coming to Florida, and less migrants going to clinics could mean less immigrants are in Florida. “I would say that it’s working as intended,” Ingoglia said. “It’s taking away the incentives and magnets that were drawing people to Florida.” MOST READ 20240208-Trump-SCOTUS-Live-Blog-008.jpg Chief justice gives Jack Smith one week to respond to Trump’s bid to stave off trial After facing off with Senate ‘Freedom Caucus,’ McConnell urges Johnson on Ukraine Get Used to It: Biden Isn’t Going Anywhere The Santos stench: 6 takeaways from the New York special election Why John Bolton Is Certain Trump Really Wants to Blow Up NATO People carry signs that read in Spanish, "Justice for Immigrants" and "We are humans" as hundreds gather to protest peacefully against Florida Senate bill 1718. People carry signs that read in Spanish, "Justice for Immigrants" and "We are humans" as hundreds gather to protest peacefully against Florida Senate bill 1718, which imposes restrictions on undocumented immigrants, Thursday, June 1, 2023, in Immokalee, Fla., an area known for its tomato-growing. | Rebecca Blackwell/AP State Rep. Johanna López, an Orlando Democrat, this year filed legislation that would protect nonprofit clinics that provide free health care services from the effects of the law. Her proposal would make it clear that nonprofits aren’t required to ask patients their immigration status. She said she brought up the legislation after officials from the Mexican consulate raised their concerns with her about the steep decline in patients they’re seeing. Her bill, though, is unlikely to go far in the GOP-controlled Legislature. Thomas Kennedy, of the Miami-based Florida Immigrant Coalition, said in a recent interview that he’s already seen a lot of people and especially pregnant women, intimidated because of the law. “It’s already a population that doesn’t have the resources or the access to the health care system that most of us enjoy,” Kennedy said. For more information, visit us at https://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/.

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