Discharge, Deportation and Dangerous Journeys: A Study on the Practice of Medical Repatriation

"This report, a collaborative project of Seton Hall University School of Law’s Center for Social Justice (CSJ) and the Health Justice Program at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI), utilizes a human rights framework to critique the widespread but barely publicized practice of forced or coerced medical repatriations of immigrant patients. Through this practice, private and public hospitals in the United States are engaged in unlawful, and frequently extrajudicial, deportations of ill or injured immigrant patients to medical facilities abroad, completely circumventing the federal government’s exclusive authority to deport individuals.

While most medical repatriations occur in the shadows, there is enough information to establish that the U.S. is in systematic violation of its human rights obligations under a variety of treaties that the U.S. has signed and/or ratified.  Overall, hospitals, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), journalists, and advocates have been able to document more than 800 cases of attempted or successful medical repatriations across the United States.  As these medical deportations are likely to increase in frequency due to certain aspects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), which will be discussed in more depth below, it is a particularly timely concern for both immigration and health care advocates.

Furthermore, standing at the intersection of these two highly controversial and complex political issues—immigration and health care policy—the debate about medical repatriation, to the extent that people are aware of it, largely focuses on the illegality of the immigrant and the costs to hospitals. In an effort to refocus the debate, this report takes a human rights-based approach to medical repatriation by examining (1) the fundamental human rights that all people should be afforded regardless of immigration status; and (2) the role of the U.S. in perpetuating this practice." - Seton Hall University School of Law’s Center for Social Justice (CSJ) and the Health Justice Program at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI), Dec. 2012.