Last week, the Center for American Progress (CAP) published an article where it outlines the 10 most destructive consequences of Alabama’s law for public health. These consequences include children not getting life-saving immunizations, mothers not obtaining necessary prenatal care, and communities not having access to water services. It concludes that all people in Alabama will suffer negative health consequences.
The underlying threat to public health is the fear that this law causes. This fear leads to many of the public health consequences outlined in CAP’s article. For example, parents are afraid to go to health clinics for themselves and for their children, leading to lack of immunizations. Mothers are afraid of seeking the necessary prenatal care which puts them at risk during their pregnancy.
Fear does not only affect specific choices or decisions about seeking health services. This type of fear is chronic – it’s there day after day, year after year in ways not easily measured. It can result in trauma that can manifest itself in medical and psychological illness. Living in constant fear is unhealthy both for the individual and communities. In addition to the impact on health care, it also shatters the trust with many gatekeepers to health and other services: the government, employers, doctors and providers, teachers, and neighbors. A community and society becomes dysfunctional when the backbone of its policies is to generate fear.
The state of Alabama is already experiencing some of these consequences. For instance, one farmer estimates that he has lost $300,000 due to labor shortages. We have yet to see the longer term effects, and there are many ways in which fear can damage not only the state economy but the health of the community as well.
Instead of destroying the lives of hardworking individuals and communities, decision-makers should develop policies that are fair, that do not violate basic human rights, and that do not instill fear in communities. As public health advocates, we also have the responsibility to expose how these unjust policies affect the health of our communities and populations.
In Other News
Obama: Kids Stuck in Foster Care Due to Deportation a ‘Real Problem’, Colorlines, 11-14-2011
President Obama acknowledges that his administration’s immigration policies break up families. The Applied Research Center’s report finds that at least 5,100 children are currently in foster case because their parents were detained or deported by ICE.
Alabama’s Immigration Laws Are Unconstitutional, Bloomberg, 11-15-2011
The U.S. tells the federal appeals court that Alabama’s anti-immigrant law is unconstitutional. In a separate filing, the ACLU also opposes the law arguing that the laws “are designed to make daily living so difficult for undocumented workers that they will leave the state.”
Immigration from Mexico in fast retreat, data show, Los Angeles Times, 11-15-2011
Fewer people are leaving Mexico and many are also returning to their native country. Lack of jobs and increased border enforcement are cited as responsible factors.
In Alabama, Calls for Revamping Immigration Law, The New York Times, 11-16-11
Lawmakers are becoming more willing to change parts of Alabama’s harsh anti-immigrant law, especially the controversial and illogical provision that requires proof of immigration status for “any transaction between a person and the state or a political subdivision of the state.” Some of these “transactions” have included severe infringements on basic human rights, such as access to water or sewer services.
Oakland Occupier free pending deportation hearing, SF Chronicle, 11-18-11
Oakland activist Francisco “Pancho” Stierle was released after being arrested at the Oakland Occupy police raid and then detained by immigration agents for not having papers. Advocates describe Pancho as one of the more peaceful protesters and one who represents how programs like Secure Communities tend to detain and eventually deport individuals who are convicted of non-violent offenses.