WSHA has received some questions from members about how recent executive orders on immigration may impact how hospitals and other health care facilities provide services. While WSHA has not prepared a comprehensive response, here we provide some resources and information that may be useful. Please note that the federal landscape may change given the current administration’s attention to immigration. Please consult legal counsel with specific questions.
Immigration enforcement actions. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have provided a set of Frequently Asked Questions about sensitive locations about where immigration enforcement actions are typically avoided. Both ICE and CBP have policies addressing sensitive locations, issued under former federal administrations. Hospitals are considered a sensitive location. Immigration enforcement actions may occur at sensitive locations in limited circumstances, but should generally be avoided according to these policies.
Law enforcement presence in facilities. In general, if law enforcement officials do not have a court order, search warrant, or arrest warrant authorizing their presence in treatment and procedure areas or other areas with restricted access, their access may be restricted. The hospital may balance the requirements for efficient health care delivery, as well as the privacy interests of all patients, in determining whether to grant access to law enforcement.
Protected health information (PHI). A health care provider must provide information to law enforcement authorities when the health care provider is required to do so by law, such as in the case of a properly issued court order or warrant. However, any court order, warrant, subpoena, summons, grand jury subpoena, and administrative order must be properly issued and must meet certain requirements before PHI is disclosed. See WSHA’s Hospital and Law Enforcement Guide to Health Care Related Disclosure for more information.
Requirement to ask about immigration status. There is no requirement that hospitals ask patients about immigration status. WSHA has strongly argued over the years that from a public policy stand point making such inquiries is against the interests of the public health as it discourages people from seeking care, including for communicable diseases.