Stand with WCMS to protect access to healthcare for all

May 4, 2018


Since learning about the recent ICE raids that are targeting the Spanish speaking communities in Buncombe, Henderson, and McDowell Counties, I have been greatly concerned for our patients and our community. Patients and news reports indicate that the people targeted and detained are not those with criminal records, but anyone who can’t immediately produce documents proving their status in the United States. Many of the ICE agents in these recent raids are undercover and in unmarked cars. People are being detained simply based on how they look. WCMS patients and interpreters tell us that people have been targeted when leaving their places of worship, dropping their children off at the bus stop for school, arriving at medical clinics, and leaving the grocery store. Even those with legal documentation fear leaving their homes. As Foundation Chair, I believe we, as providers, must be advocates for our patients and those in our communities who are now living in great fear.

The WCMS Foundation is the home of WIN (WCMS Interpreter Network), which provides professional medical interpreting services to limited English speaking and Deaf patients in many different health care settings. WIN’s professional medical interpreters are on the "front line", so to speak, as to what our Latino community is experiencing due to these targeted raids. Latino people are not going to their medical appointments. They not getting their medicines or groceries.  They are not going to work.  They are essentially prisoners in their homes and living in fear.  The stressors Latinos are experiencing are harmful to the health and well-being of our WNC communities.

During this time, some WCMS staff volunteered with various local community agencies. One volunteered with Beloved Asheville and delivered groceries to a family who hadn’t left their home in five days- not even to let their two-year-old play in the yard. With the help of volunteers, BeLoved Asheville delivered groceries to over 1,000 people who were afraid to leave their home during the raids. Others, including WIN interpreters, volunteered with Pisgah Legal Services for two different legal aid clinics. Pisgah Legal organized these clinics specifically to address the needs of immigrants.

The scope of the ICE raids is far-reaching and touch upon the aspects of the social determinants of health (employment, food security, transportation, health).  The children of these immigrants are also fearful; what happens if their parents are detained? What happens if their families are split up? Long after the ICE agents are gone, the trauma of these recent events will linger and the fear and anxiety will remain.

Regardless of your position on undocumented immigrants, I strongly urge you to stand with WCMS and advocate to condemn actions that impede access to needed medical care in our region. WCMS stands with the immigrants in our area. We want everyone to feel safe accessing care, regardless of immigration/citizenship status. This promotes a healthier community.  The Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Civil Rights Act of 1964  apply to everyone in the United States, whether they are citizens, tourist visa holders, green card holders, DACA recipients, immigrants with refugee status, or undocumented immigrants.

We MUST uphold the dignity and value of each and every patient who comes through our doors. Please join us in our efforts to make our health care environment one that is a safe place for ALL our patients regardless of immigration status.  Our community’s health and well-being rely on it.


Lisa Ladd MD
Chair, WCMS Foundation

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