Philly is the first city in the U.S. to ban medical deportations. Here’s what that means

The new law provides guidelines for how hospitals should treat immigrant patients and gives immigrants more say.

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Advocates rally for the end of medical deportations in Philadelphia.

Advocates rally for the end of medical deportations in Philadelphia. (Courtesy of Free Migration Project)

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Philadelphia is the first city to make medical deportation illegal.

On Friday, Dec. 22, Philadelphia’s outgoing Mayor Jim Kenney signed what is known as the “end medical deportation” bill.

“We got word the bill was signed,” said Jasmine Rivera, who is the interim executive director at the Pennsylvania Immigrant and Citizenship Coalition in a text message.

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“We hope the next chapter of this journey includes other jurisdictions taking up policies like this one, to protect people from discrimination when seeking healthcare,” said Adrianna Torres-Garcia, deputy director of Free Migration Project and one of the leaders behind the end medical eeportation campaign, in a written statement to WHYY News.

Hospitals are now required to ensure that any immigrant patient in their care is given access to translators and given a chance to decide where they want to receive care, whether that be in the Philadelphia region or in their home country. The new law also imposes fines on any hospital that does not follow its criteria.

Under the new law, guidance outlines how hospitals should treat immigrant patients who need long-term care.

Hospitals must report when a hospital administration wishes to transfer an imimigrant patient out of the U.S. under medical repatriation. Before the bill was introduced, most hospitals did not report in detail who the patients were, and why they decided to send an imimigrant patient abroad.

Medical and immigrant rights advocates said transferring patients from one hospital setting to another can cause complications, increasing a patient’s risk for infections, as well as inadequate access to medication or quality care.

The bill was the result of three years of campaigning by family members of immigrant patients who faced deportation, immigrant rights activists, and legal experts.

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Hospitals will have until Jan. 13, which is 90 days from Dec. 22, to begin drafting policies and implement the new law.

It provides clear criteria on immigrant patient rights, including translation services and alternative ways to pay for care from a state and city level to avoid the financial burden some hospitals would often cited as a reason to send a patient away.

Mayor Kenney did not respond to a request for comment.

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