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AG issues guidance and model policies on immigrant access to public facilities



November 29, 2018
Area(s) of Interest: Access to Care Hospitals and Health Facilities 

California is home to more than 10 million immigrants, representing 27 percent of the state’s population. Many immigrants feel deterred from using health care facilities because of fear that doing so will provoke immigration enforcement actions. Recently, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued guidance and model policies to ensure that public facilities across the state remain accessible to all residents, as required by “The California Values Act” law (SB 54), which took effect in January 2018.

With some exceptions, SB 54 limits these local agencies and others, such as school police and security departments, from using money or personnel “to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect or arrest individuals” for immigration enforcement purposes.

The guidance advises the proper role of staff at public facilities if any agency, official, or officer, whether local or federal, seeks to engage in immigration enforcement. Specific model policies were issued for colleges, universities, libraries, health care facilities, courthouses, shelters, and labor agencies. 

Health care facilities operated by the state are required to “limit assistance with immigration enforcement to the fullest extent possible consistent with federal and state law,” and they can adopt these model policies or equivalent policies. The policies are useful for any health care facility or provider that wants to understand more about federal and state law on this issue.

“The collective health of all Californians, immigrants and non-immigrants, benefits greatly when all have access to the state’s multifaceted health care system, including public health care facilities, community health clinics, hospital systems, and emergency departments,” wrote Attorney General Becerra in the newly issued guidance. “Communicable diseases do not discriminate on the basis of immigration status and, for the health of the population as a whole, neither should the treatment of those diseases.”

The guidance was developed in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders, including the California Medical Association. The model policies will soon be available in Spanish, Traditional Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Tagalog and Arabic.

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