A Highland Hospital clinic’s training to teach medical workers how to examine asylum seekers is gaining popularity at the same time that demand for those evaluations is growing.
An upcoming class on Dec. 15 at the Oakland hospital is so popular that the 100 available seats are already taken and more than 70 people were put on a wait list.
Those who take the class will learn how to do psychological and medical evaluations for immigrants who have come to the United States seeking refuge from their home countries.
These evaluations are a critical part of asylum seekers’ claims, and demand for them continues to increase, according to Suzanne Portnoy, a nurse practitioner at the Highland Human Rights Clinic.
“Health care workers help immigration officials make the right decisions for people who are fleeing torture and other forms of abuse,” Portnoy said.
Demand for the exams has increased in part because the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has rapidly sped up the process.
“This accelerated timeline puts increased pressure on attorneys to secure forensic asylum exams within weeks of getting a case,” Portnoy wrote in a news release.
Clinicians hope that will become less of a problem, at least in Oakland, after more medical workers are trained to do the evaluations.
They will be taught to examine patients using the Istanbul Protocol, an “internationally accepted guideline for documenting torture,” according to the hospital.
All types of clinicians can do the training, including physicians, nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, physician assistants, social workers and psychologists. Students in any of those areas can also take the course.
Interest in the training ticked up after President Donald Trump was elected in 2016 and started enacting austere anti-immigration measures that also taxed the legal system, Portnoy said.
Shortly after he was elected, Trump ordered federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to track down and arrest undocumented immigrants who didn’t have criminal records.
The Highland Human Rights Clinic was founded more than 15 years ago and workers there have done more than 400 pro-bono evaluations since 2012, Portnoy said.
Story originally published by Bay City News.