UPDATED: Why immigrant rights and health care go hand-in-hand
By Sophie Ota | Jan. 11, 2018, 5:15 p.m.
Category: Health Care Equity, Voting
Updated Jan. 11 2018
On January 9, a federal court blocked the Trump administration's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Though this is a win for undocumented youth and their families, the fight is far from over. Until Congress passes a clean Dream Act, hundreds of thousands of young people's lives remain in jeopardy.
What issues are important to you?
If you’re reading this, there’s a chance you care about the same things we do: health care, immigrant rights, LGBTQ rights, reproductive rights — the list goes on.
Sometimes, keeping track of all our fights can seem like a lot. After all, we live in such a fast-paced world — one where Trump won’t stop tweeting and extreme politicians won’t stop attacking our health, rights, and communities.
But the truth is that our most important fights aren’t separate. Immigrant rights and health care go hand-in-hand. In fact, some immigrants in detention are literally dying because of barriers to accessing health care. And, perhaps not coincidentally, the Trump administration and GOP ideologues want to undermine both.
Immigrants and their families face the barrier of stigma when accessing health care
Out of fear of deportation, harassment, and scrutiny, immigrants may be reluctant to get the care they need — especially since the Trump administration has launched attack after attack on immigrant communities. This includes ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a move that takes away protections for more than 800,000 immigrant youth.
These fears are especially real for immigrants who are undocumented and don’t want their personal information known. In a recent national poll surveying health care providers that serve immigrant communities, two-thirds of respondents said they’d seen a hesitance among patients to get health care since Trump took office.
United We Dream co-founder Cristina Jiménez talks about the culture of fear immigrants may face.
Imagine being too afraid to go to the doctor’s office when you’re sick or need a cancer screening. Imagine being too afraid to sign up for health insurance, or to even pick up a prescription from the pharmacy.
The stakes are even higher for LGBTQ immigrants who are undocumented. In addition to the stigma of being undocumented, LGBTQ folks also face the possibility of being forced to return to a country that’s intolerant of who they are.
Because of xenophobic laws, immigrants are less likely to get the care they need
Across the country, extreme state legislatures have passed xenophobic laws that make it really hard for immigrants to get health care.
Just one example is an Arizona law that allows police to “identify, prosecute, and deport” immigrants if there is “reasonable suspicion” that they are undocumented. Many other states — including Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, and South Carolina — have passed similar laws. For immigrants, this can create a culture of fear around getting health care and sharing personal information.
Women in particular are affected by these harsh laws. Immigrant women have higher rates of unintended pregnancy, and they are less likely to receive cervical cancer screenings. Some immigrant groups have higher rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections than other communities in the U.S. And more than half of of low-income, non-citizen immigrant women of reproductive age lack health insurance. All of these health disparities can be reduced — and in some cases prevented — if immigrants have equal access to care.
For women who are undocumented and in detention, getting reproductive health care is even harder. According to the National Women’s Law Center, there have been instances of women in detention being denied basic health care, including treatment of HIV/AIDS, pregnancy care, abortion, and menstrual products.
Finally, DACA helps safeguard women who are victims of domestic abuse and intimate partner violence from deportation. Ending this program puts them in danger of violence.
Immigrants are blocked from getting health care too often
Jane Doe’s fight for safe, legal abortion: In October, an undocumented young woman, “Jane Doe,” was held hostage and denied an abortion while she was held in detention. Scott Lloyd, who directs the Office of Refugee Resettlement, instructed his department to go to extreme lengths to block Jane from accessing an abortion.
Though Jane was ultimately able to get the care she needed, she’s not the only young person in that situation. It’s likely that many other women held by ICE are being denied safe, legal abortion. After all, 292 pregnant women were held in ICE detention centers nationwide during the first four months of 2017, while other detention centers have long histories of sexual abuse.
Scott Lloyd told his department to block Jane Doe from accessing an abortion.
Rosa Maria’s health care was compromised: On her way to a hospital for emergency surgery, 10-year-old Rosa Maria, who is undocumented and has cerebral palsy, was taken into custody by border control. Federal authorities held her at a facility for days, rather than letting her return to her family. Rosa Maria was cruelly held in detention, where her deportation was prioritized over her health care needs.
Rosa Maria was unfairly held in custody by border control.
Hurricanes Harvey and Maria: In Houston, the city with the third largest population of undocumented immigrants, Harvey forced many DACA recipients and mixed-status families to face difficult choices this fall. Already anxious over Trump’s threats of deportation, undocumented people may have been even more reluctant to seek out shelter and health care in Harvey and Maria’s wake, for fear of being turned away at shelters or facing hostile ICE agents.
Planned Parenthood is committed to helping immigrants get the care they need — no matter what
How you can be an ally
Change starts with YOU. Tell your lawmakers to stand with immigrant youth and their families. Demand they pass a clean #DreamActNow.
Plus, here’s here’s a roundup of organizations you can support and follow to stand with immigrants.
- United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the nation.
UndocuBlack Network, a multigenerational network that advocates for and supports undocumented Black people.
The National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC), a grassroots organization that aims to organize Korean and Asian Americans to achieve social, economic, and racial justice.
Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), an organization that helps Black immigrant communities advocate for racial and social justice.
The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), an API women-led group that leads a national progressive, multi-issue movement.
The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA), a federation of LGBTQ AAPI organizations.
The National Immigration Law Center (NILC), an advocacy group for immigrants and their family members.
Want to support immigrants near you? The Informed Immigrant network connects you with immigrant rights and services groups in your state.