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Medical Care Options for Undocumented Immigrants


As an undocumented immigrant, you may feel reluctant to seek medical care for fear of being deported. Perhaps you are ineligible for government-sponsored health insurance programs, such as Medicaid. Whatever your circumstances, you are entitled to access basic medical care, and several options are available. Many community health centers offer sliding-scale fees or free care to patients who cannot afford to pay. In addition, many hospitals offer emergency services to anyone in need, regardless of their immigration status.

Public Hospitals

Undocumented immigrants can receive emergency medical care at public hospitals, regardless of their immigration status. In addition, some states offer Medicaid coverage for low-income undocumented immigrants Here. Getting Medicaid can sometimes be complex, but this coverage helps pay for doctor visits, prescription drugs, and other necessary medical treatments.

Urgent Care Clinics

Urgent care clinics can offer basic medical services at a lower cost than emergency rooms and traditional doctor’s offices. Many urgent care clinics in major cities are specifically designed to serve low-income patients of all backgrounds, making them ideal for undocumented immigrants who need essential medical treatment. However, it is important to note that urgent care clinics are not equipped to handle serious medical emergencies.

Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC)

Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), also Community Health Centers, are nonprofit clinics offering affordable medical care to low-income individuals, including undocumented immigrants. These centers provide services from preventative screenings to mental health counseling. FQHCs also help patients apply for Medicaid and other government insurance coverage. FQHCs are an invaluable resource for undocumented immigrants who need medical care but lack the resources to pay for it. Here’s a list of Federally Qualified Health Centers here.

Emergency Rooms 

Undocumented immigrants have the same rights to medical care as US citizens and legal residents, and emergency rooms must provide medical care to anyone who needs it, regardless of immigration status. However, emergency room visits can be expensive, even with insurance. Such steep costs may make an emergency room visit unaffordable. 

Vaccination Programs

Many states offer free or low-cost vaccination programs for undocumented immigrants. Enrolling in these programs can be complicated, but getting vaccinated is an important way to stay healthy and avoid serious medical conditions. Vaccination programs are available at community health centers, local clinics, and other public health organizations throughout the country.

Can an Undocumented Immigrant Get Deported While at a Hospital?

The laws regarding medical care and immigration status vary by state and individual hospital. Many hospitals are sensitive to the concerns of undocumented immigrants and take steps to protect their privacy and prevent them from being deported. For example, some hospitals may allow undocumented immigrants to pay for services in cash rather than using a credit card or other form of identification.

In addition, many hospitals have policies prohibiting staff from asking patients about their immigration status. If you need medical care, research the policies of your local hospitals to ensure you will be safe and protected.


  • You do not have to disclose your immigration status to receive care, but they may ask about it if you apply for insurance (you can say you do not want insurance and decline to give your immigration status). All patients have a right to an interpreter when receiving medical treatment. 
  • US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) operate under “sensitive locations” policies Here. Agents cannot make arrests at churches, schools, or hospitals except in extraordinary circumstances.

Reasons for Medical Deportation

Once a patient has received medical care and is stable, the obligation to suspend an arrest may be lifted. If the court orders that an individual be deported, they may be removed from the hospital and transferred into ICE custody. CBP may also start removal proceedings if the patient has been convicted of a crime.

Other reasons why an undocumented immigrant may be deported following a medical procedure or treatment include:

  • Failure to comply with immigration requirements, such as repeatedly missing court dates
  • Serious criminal convictions, including violent crimes and drug offenses
  • Repeated violations of immigration laws and regulations
  • Incorrect or false information about immigration status provided by the patient when seeking care
  • Discriminatory or hostile attitudes of healthcare providers, who may view undocumented immigrants as criminals or undeserving of medical treatment
  • Overzealous enforcement of immigration laws by hospital staff or security guards
  • Lack of knowledge about the rights of undocumented immigrants to receive medical care

Under federal law, medical facilities cannot deny a patient care based on immigration status. Many states have laws to protect undocumented immigrants’ access to medical care. However, some hospitals and clinics have refused care to undocumented immigrants, citing fear of legal ramifications or the costs of treating uninsured patients.

If you have a life-threatening emergency and need post-rehab care, be sure your family plans your options before discharge. This will ensure you receive the care you need without fear of deportation.​

How Can Undocumented Immigrants Protect Their Privacy and Ensure They Receive the Care They Need?

Undocumented immigrants can take steps to protect their privacy and ensure they receive the care they need:

  1. Find out if your local hospital has a policy that prohibits staff from asking patients about their immigration status.
  2. Research the policies of your local hospitals to ensure you will be safe and protected.
  3. Be familiar with the rights of undocumented immigrants to receive medical care.
  4. If you have a life-threatening emergency, be sure your family plans your options before discharge.
  5. You have the right to an interpreter when receiving medical treatment, regardless of your immigration status.

Do Other Forms of Medicaid Work for Undocumented Immigrants?

No. Besides emergency Medicaid, which is only for undocumented immigrants with medical emergencies, all other forms of Medicaid require that recipients have legal status in the United States. This includes Medicare, which is a health insurance program for seniors and people with disabilities.

What Happens If I Am an Undocumented Immigrant and I Can’t Pay My Hospital Bill?

Explore all options for payment before seeking medical treatment. If you are an undocumented immigrant and cannot pay your hospital bill, the hospital may turn your case over to a collection agency, which will attempt to collect payment from you. If you cannot pay the debt, the collection agency may report the debt to credit agencies; this can damage your credit score. Hospitals may take legal action against undocumented immigrants who cannot pay their bills. 

Wrapping Up

With the right knowledge and resources, you can receive the medical care you need without putting yourself at risk of legal or financial consequences, despite potential legal and logistical challenges. 

Taking the time to plan will make all the difference. Research your local hospital policies, keep your family informed of your medical needs, and understand your rights as an undocumented immigrant. An immigration lawyer or a local community organization can provide additional support and resources as you navigate these challenges.

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