I'm a Doctor, Not a Cop
Undocumented Immigrants: I’m a doctor, not a cop (and definitely not an immigration officer)
Recently I read a news item (I don’t call them articles when there’s only a few sentences and not much info) about a first grade teacher who was suspended when she posted something on FB about turning in undocumented immigrants. I was appalled. I hope no one turns me in for my beliefs, but I also feel the opposite of this first grade teacher.
Every child has a right to an education. And every child has a right to feel safe while going to school—without fear of their teacher turning them in, without fear of bullying, without fear of hunger. And while most of us can’t control two of those things, we CAN control one of them.
I can’t imagine living in a place where I wasn’t allowed to go to school. Or where I was fearful of my teacher.
I remember when I was in college the passage of Proposition 187 in California, which would have required police officers, educators and health care professionals to report undocumented immigrants. Sadly, this proposition did pass with a wide margin, but it was found to be unconstitutional. At the time, I was not yet planning on even applying to medical school but I remember asking my mom about her thoughts on the proposition, as she was a primary care physician. The one thing I recall: she didn’t have the time. (Who did at the time? Medicine was changing in the 1990s and primary care physicians were inundated with add-ons and overbookings of appts. We still are.)
I may or may not have treated many patients who are either undocumented themselves or have undocumented parents. In particular, I remember talking to one family about Legoland. The boy (he was around 10) rued the fact that he couldn’t go to Legoland because his father didn’t want to encounter the immigration stop on the way back. Now, I have no idea if he was undocumented or not. Fear runs deep in Southern California, and with good reason.
In any case, it broke my heart. What if this boy had that same fear about coming to see me? Or going to school? Would he stay home all day instead, not learning to read, not learning math, not painting or playing with his friends? Would he just grow up illiterate and frustrated and end up prey for the many gangs in his neighborhood? Or would his parents not seek help if he got a cold that turned into pneumonia and it festered into an empyema and he died gasping for breath (for a treatable illness)? What if he was meant to be the next Picasso or Einstein or simply the next teacher who would inspire other children?
My point is that as doctors and teachers, our job is not to determine who is ‘worthy’ of staying in this country. I don’t know what is happening to that teacher—if her suspension will turn into a termination. What I do know is that if she was my kids’ teacher, I’d be sorely disappointed. And I’d definitely consider pulling my kids from her class—Little Lion is currently in first grade. What kind of beliefs would this teacher be teaching my child? Certainly not about equality.
Does she have a right to state her beliefs? Of course she does—that’s what free speech is all about. But she also has to know that there are consequences to her speech, especially when posted to social media.
Just as I debated whether I should write about my stance as well. But I live what I write: would I report any undocumented immigrants should I happen upon them in my practice? I never have and I never will.