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Video: Border Patrol Agents Detain Emergency Room Patient at Aventura Hospital

A woman was detained by Border Patrol agents after being treated for a panic attack following a traffic stop.EXPAND
A woman was detained by Border Patrol agents after being treated for a panic attack following a traffic stop.
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Update, 2 p.m.: Keith Smith, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, says the woman was detained consistent with "standard processing procedures."

"Miami Sector does not conduct any enforcement operations in hospitals — however agents will transport persons in custody and remain with them until medically treated and cleared," Smith wrote in an email to New Times. His full statement is posted below.

During a traffic stop yesterday, agents from U.S. Border Patrol detained an undocumented woman who was on her way home from a family outing at Haulover Beach. Almost immediately, the woman began to have a panic attack. The officers took her to Aventura Hospital & Medical Center, where she was treated by emergency-room doctors.

When the woman was discharged shortly thereafter, a uniformed Border Patrol agent escorted her to a patrol vehicle and drove away. Immigrant-rights activists, who captured the incident on video, say the woman's detention showed callous disregard for a person undergoing medical treatment.

"It's truly embarrassing as a country that this is a place where we are — that this is how business is being conducted, when we have a woman with children in the midst of a medical emergency being detained," says Alexandra Audate, a lawyer and rapid-response volunteer with the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC), who was present at the hospital.

Tomas Kennedy, another activist with FLIC, says the woman was coming home from the beach with her children and her ex-husband when Border Patrol stopped their car. After the woman was hospitalized, word spread quickly through local immigration chat groups. Activists descended on the hospital to intervene.

In a video Kennedy shot, he can be seen asking one of the federal agents if he has a warrant. The officer responds in Spanish, "We don't need a warrant. Where'd you get that from?"

"It's the law," Kennedy says.

"What law? What do you know about anything?" the agent responds.

Additional videos show Border Patrol agents detaining the woman and driving away from the hospital with her in a marked car:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Keith Smith said the agency would provide more details later today. Aventura Hospital representatives did not respond to phone and email messages from New Times.

According to Kennedy, Border Patrol agents refused to leave the woman's hospital room during her short stay, preventing her from consulting privately with an immigration attorney at the scene. Audate, who arrived later and spoke with the woman's family, says it's unclear whether the agents provided the hospital with a warrant or similar documentation showing the woman's detention was proper.

"Personal medical information probably was being discussed in the presence of a third party. If they don't have the proper documentation, that would be extremely alarming," Audate says.

FLIC spokeswoman Melissa Taveras says the officers' presence appears to violate Border Patrol's policy on so-called sensitive locations, which generally says agents should not apprehend people in hospitals, churches, or schools.

"Basically, it says that the agent is supposed to act with caution and supposed to get some sort of permission in advance before entering what's called a sensitive space," Taveras says. "It doesn't seem like this agent acted that way, though."

But Audate says the fact that the woman had been detained in the traffic stop prior to her hospitalization could override the rule.

"I can't say it was right or wrong," she says. "I can only say that if somebody shows up in a hospital arguably holding somebody against their will, I would hope that the hospital would follow their proper procedures in obtaining documentation."

As of this morning, many details about the traffic stop and the woman's hospital stay remain unclear. This post will be updated as further information is released.

Regardless, Taveras says releasing videos to the public is a vital mission for FLIC.

"It's sad that we have to forcefully ask for constitutional rights to be respected, but in this day and age, definitely shooting video ensures that people's rights are protected," she says. "It also provides visual proof of what our communities are experiencing."

The full statement from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol spokesman Keith Smith has been posted below:

"U.S. Border Patrol agents with Miami Sector routinely conduct various border security enforcement actions around the Florida coast to secure our coastal border.

"On October 13, 2019, U.S. Border Patrol Miami Sector agents encountered an individual illegally present in the United States. After the subject was taken into custody, the individual complained of chest pain and heart issues. Agents immediately requested emergency medical services (EMS) to provide medical care.

"EMS personnel transported the subject to a local hospital for further evaluation. Agents accompanied the detained individual to the hospital while awaiting for medical clearance. Once the subject was medically cleared by hospital personnel, agents transported the individual to a Border Patrol station to continue with standard processing procedures.

"Miami Sector does not conduct any enforcement operations in hospitals—however agents will transport persons in custody and remain with them until medically treated and cleared."

Staff writer Alexi Cardona contributed to this report.

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