City health officials
yesterday launched a multilingual campaign urging undocumented immigrant New
Yorkers not to be afraid to seek care at public hospitals.
Amid the nation’s explosive and divisive national
immigration debate, the officials said confusion and fear have gripped many
would-be patients who fear coming into contact with authorities.
"We want immigrant families to know that our No.
1 commitment is to their health," said Alan Aviles, president of the
city’s Health and Hospitals Corp., who announced the open letter campaign with
Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Guillermo Linares at Elmhurst Hospital Center in
"They need to be reassured that keeping their
families healthy will not come at the risk of having their status
The campaign will consist of open letters – in nine
languages – that will be published in ethnic newspapers across the city, Aviles
Although Mayor Bloomberg has established Executive
Order 41, which imposes a "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy for public
officials who come into contact with undocumented immigrants, Aviles said a
separate message was needed for the city’s undocumented population, estimated
Warren Seigel, director of pediatrics at Coney Island
Hospital, has said that, recently, parents have begged him to arrange
appointments outside the hospital.
"They were concerned about coming to a public
institution," Aviles recounted. "I hope we have established enough
trust with our patients that we keep all patient information completely
For Nicaraguan immigrant (and Make the Road by Walking member) Irania
Sanchez, 37, the paranoia is real and
intense. She has been urging a Mexican friend who is suffering from hepatitis C
to see a doctor. But he has refused.
"He has a lot of fear because of
immigration," said Sanchez, who lives in Bushwick. "He’s very skinny.
He looks like he’s going to die.
With Jordan Lite