Tag Archives: Border

2013: New opportunities for healthy immigration reform?

9 Jan

The Curious Ostrich has big plans for 2013! We are now moving to a monthly format, providing readers with in-depth analysis and commentary on the public health impact of immigration policies and national conversations around immigration. As always, our mission is to bring attention to the ways immigration policies affect health and to provide information and resources for health and immigration advocates alike. Want regular updates on immigration issues? Like our Facebook page!TCO cover

Over the course of 2012, a number of policies and events across the country significantly, and often negatively, affected the health of immigrants and their communities. Deportations continued at an all time high, separating families and at great cost to our economy. Due to programs such as Secure Communities 1.6 million people were deported during President Obama’s first term. Our nation’s growing immigration enforcement system now receives more funding than all other federal enforcement agencies combined. This focus on enforcement and a militarized border increased border violence and resulted in many deaths, some perpetrated  by the US Border Patrol itself.

Immigrants also continue to be denied many basic rights. For example, while the Affordable Care Act (ACA) goes a long way in expanding access to health insurance, undocumented immigrants and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals-approved individuals are barred from new health insurance programs. At the state level, although the Supreme Court knocked down many of the provisions in Arizona’s immigration bill SB 1070,  the “paper’s please” provision will move forward.  Other states continue to follow Arizona’s lead in anti-immigrant legislation.

The impact of xenophobia and anti-immigrant politicking is not limited to immigrant communities. For example, in 2012 the Violence Against Women Act, a traditionally non-controversial, bi-partisan bill, failed to be reauthorized for the first time in its history. This was in part due to Republican supposed opposition to protections for immigrant women.

In 2012, we also saw promising policies and inspiring activism by undocumented immigrants, particularly youth. Influenced by ongoing activism by DREAMers, President Obama granted deferred action to “childhood arrivals” (DACA), creating the largest opening in many years for undocumented individuals to gain work permission and protection from deportation. While not a long-term solution, DACA created opportunities for many young immigrants.

Exciting grassroots mobilizations also helped raise the profile of immigrant issues and pushed forward a more progressive policy agenda. The Caravan for Peace turned attention to the human impact of border violence and the United State’s role in drug war violence; undocumented youth are using art and creativity to assert their rights; DREAMers sat-in at Obama campaign offices; the Undocubus shared stories at the Democratic National Convention; and the Campaign for the American Dream team walked from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. to raise awareness about immigration policy.

Moving into 2013

Building on this momentum, 2013 brings new opportunities for making immigration policy more just and protecting immigrant communities. President Obama’s re-election turned new attention to the power of communities of color in our political system and we now have the most diverse Congress in US history. Polling suggests that the public and elected officials are ready to consider immigration reform. President Obama has repeatedly stated that comprehensive immigration reform will be a priority early on in his second administration. However, for too long, political debates about immigration have focused on controlling immigration through the criminalization and stereotyping of immigrants.  Therefore, we hope to see these policy discussions and decisions acknowledge the importance of immigrants to our society and economy and affirm that all people, including immigrants and regardless of their immigration status, have rights as residents of this nation.  Specific policies that we would like to see from the 113th congress include:

      • Create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently in the US.  The increasing numbers of young immigrants applying for deferred action demonstrates that creating a process for undocumented immigrants to apply for papers is not only relatively politically non-controversial, but is feasible and has tremendous positive impacts. This is a start, but temporary status for a small portion of undocumented immigrants is not enough.  There are still roughly 11 million individuals who lack papers and a path to citizenship. This is an injustice, not only to these individuals, but to their families and communities and the nation as a whole.
      • Reduce deportations and keep families together.  Enforcement programs and deportations needlessly tear people from their jobs, communities and families, with devastating emotional and economic impacts.  A simple fix would be to end programs such as Secure Communities.  In addition, policies are needed to end the fear that deportations have caused by creating clear delineations between local police officers and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
      • Create accountability over and reform the detention system. The unregulated and unhealthy network of privatized detention centers must be reformed and regulated. This should include expanding accountability and oversight for current detention centers.  The all-historic-high number of detention beds in centers and county jails creates a gross profit motive and should be reduced.
      • End the militarization of the border.  Border fence and patrolling policies throw money into militarization, rather than the true safety of people in the United States.  There should be an end to financial support for the border fence, reduction in funding for the Border Patrol, and increased oversight over the Border Patrol, including the training and background of officers and their use of surveillance technology.
      • Increase access to education and social services for all immigrants.  Immigrants should be positively included in public policies.  This is a matter of both fairness and of effective crafting of public policies, as economic, social service and health policies ultimately have an impact on immigrant communities, such as the Affordable Care Act and the Violence Against Women Act.

The connection to health

At The Curious Ostrich, we believe that all of these policies and their resulting challenges and opportunities for immigrants are public health issues. Immigration policies, and related social and economic policies, directly impact the health of immigrants in a number of ways – from reduced access to essential services and resources to the  fear and stress that result from discrimination, criminalization and deportation. Over the course of 2013, we will continue to explore these links between immigration policies and health:

      • Access to health care— Many people are barred or have limited access to health insurance and health care services due to their immigration status. Access to regular primary care is important in preventing many diseases (e.g. diabetes), while limited emergency care services results in unnecessary deaths.
      • Diminished rights and protections— Fear of deportation diminishes the rights of undocumented individuals by shaping their decisions about accessing services such as education or police protection. For instance, many undocumented workers are victims of wage theft, yet they do not have legal recourse without risking deportation.
      • Access to resources— Diminished rights lead to reduced access to resources to lead a healthy life. For example, undocumented immigrants may choose not to access public resources, such as education or social services, because they believe they are not eligible or they are afraid of coming into contact with government officials.
      • Discrimination— There is widespread anti-immigrant sentiment embedded in our national policy and media discourses, and anti-immigrant groups continue to advocate effectively for policies that devalue and dehumanize immigrants because of their lack of legal standing. From conservative politicians campaigning on deportation policies, to widespread discriminatory commentary in the news, there is a strong national narrative that a lack of papers justifies less-than-humane treatment.

There are feasible policy solutions that can reduce the risks to and protect the health of immigrant communities. There are dynamic and mobilized advocates who will continue to fight for the rights of immigrants.  Public health advocates can play a critical role.  Therefore, in 2013, our hope is to see not a continuation of the short-term and enforcement-focused policies often associated with “comprehensive” immigration reform, but rather the promotion of healthy immigration reform.

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14,237 Unaccompanied Minors Detained at the US-MX border, 2/13-2/20

22 Feb
Mexico's ICE

Mexico's ICE

Nearly 15,000 unaccompanied minors detained at the Mexico-US border annually, Fox News Latino, 2.13.12
_____Mexico’s version of ICE, the National Institute of Migration (INM) released an astounding figure early last week. In 2011, 14,237 minors travelled by themselves and were detained at the Southern border. That translates to about 40 children a day who are caught trying to cross into the US. This number does not include the children who are not detained when crossing the border, suggesting that the number of minors traveling by themselves is much higher. The 14,237 includes 11,520 minors from Mexico and another 2,717 minors from other Latin American countries such as Colombia, Panama, Spain, and Argentina. The report is not clear on whether these are minors without parents, crossing on their own, or minors who are trying to reunite with family in the US. The INM report also mentions that, within their agency, 386 officials work in the “Children’s Protection” unit where they screen for maltreatment, abuse, and trafficking. These children have been lured to the opportunities that may be available when they arrive in the US, despite the dangerous border conditions and the widespread discrimination.
_____The push and pull factors of immigration do not occur by chance: 11 million undocumented people in the United States is not a random statistic. In a recent Nation article David Bacon successfully at describes how US foreign policy has been a major contributor to the push of Mexicans out of Mexico.  NAFTA has eliminated many agricultural jobs, it hasn’t created enough manufacturing jobs, and both of these contribute to a 50% poverty rate in Mexico. In such a poor economic environment, it should be no wonder that there are so many trying to come to the US, including nearly 15,000 children who were detained at the border. If young people searching for better opportunities are able to make it to the border, we should not expel them from our country to an uncertain fate. Given that these minors may be orphans of have family in the US of Latin America, US’s first priority should be to ensure their safety, NOT their deportation. After all, US foreign policies are part of the reason they were pushed away from their homes in the first place.

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In other news
March for Dignity a Success, Oakland Local, 2.18.12
Several hundred marchers stood in solidarity with workers who were laid-off from Pacific Steel Casting after an ICE audit. The resilient worker-organizers along with their allies marched through Berkeley on Friday, reminding the public that the immigrant persecution in this country is not limited to Arizona and Alabama.
Alabama’s Immigration Law Could Cost Billions Annually, Business Week, 2.14.12
An economic analysis of anti-immigrant laws in Utah, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, and Indiana find that these laws are having a tremendous economic impact. In Alabama, the study estimates that the economy will shrink by 2.3 billion dollars and 70,000 jobs every year. The majority of the decline is attributed to goods and services that would have been used by immigrants who have fled the state to avoid the laws.
Arizona business leaders drive a new approach to unauthorized immigration, WSJ, 2.13.12
A republican legislator in the state described the new approach: “In Arizona, we’re no longer willing to throw illegal-immigration bills against the wall to see what sticks.” The push is backed by the business groups such as the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and the Arizona Farm Bureau, which indicates that the state’s nativist streak may concede to a desire for a healthy economy. State legislators Alabama is also re-considering repealing elements of it’s anti-immigrant law.
Immigrants are slowly returning back to Alabama despite repressive HB56, USA Today, 2.19.12
After the dust of HB56 has settled, immigrants who initially left the state in large numbers are starting to return. Jobs are difficult to find elsewhere, rumors of mass deportations proved to be untrue and many families just want to return to a place they consider home. Still wary of the changes in Alabama law, many immigrants remain vigilant.

Being counted: same-sex immigrant and binational couples 11/27-12/4

6 Dec

.         LGBT immigrants often go unnoticed in immigration debates, just as immigrants often go unnoticed in the LGBT rights movement. Yet, out of an estimated 650,000 same sex couples in the US, 12% include at least one immigrant partner.  A new study from UCLA provides data that demonstrate the demographic trends and diversity among these couples and, implicitly, provides a glimpse into the complex realities for these couples.
.         About 39,000 of these partnerships include immigrants who have been able to attain full citizenship through naturalization. This group is almost half White, only about 23% are raising children, 75% are home owners and most are high income.  About 28,574 couples are binational, including some immigrants with permanent residence and some without.  Compared to the same sex couples where both partners have citizenship, this group is almost half Latino and only a third White, about a third are raising children, almost two thirds own a home and are mid- to low-income. Another 11,442 couples are dual-non-citizen, with a permanent resident and non-permanent resident or both.  This group is 76% Latino, over half are raising children, only 30% own a home and they are low income. Continue reading

Cruelty at the Border, 9/18-9/25

27 Sep
No más muerte painting

Photo by Steve and Paige

New report reveals border patrol abuse, NACLA, 9/21/11
A new report, “Culture of Cruelty,” from a humanitarian aid organization No More Deaths, outlines the abuse faced by migrants at the hands of border patrol agents. Examples of the abuse experienced by a significant proportion of border patrol detainees include: denial of water, denial of emergency aid, death threats, physical abuse, and sleep deprivation.
The dangerous conditions at the southern border represent the most concrete examples of health threats that immigrants face on their way to the United States. The last few decades has seen an increase in the militarization of the border.  This has led to more perilous crossings because migrants are going to more desolate parts of the border, or are trying riskier methods to cross.
Although the Curious Ostrich often focuses on the myriad and sometimes indirect ways our immigration policy is harmful to people’s health, the dangers at the border are perhaps the most obvious and directly endanger people’s lives. People are dying at the border because of the misguided notion that our borders need to be militarized. The report gives recommendations to reduce the health threats, such as increasing access to water and making the border patrol more accountable with civilian oversight committees. Read the report to see how you can help No More Deaths. Continue reading