Tag Archives: Discrimination

The Curious Ostrich Immigration Policy-to-Health Framework

20 Feb

At the Curious Ostrich we provide updates and analysis on immigration news – providing health professionals and immigrant rights activists a “heads up” on immigration, xenophobia, and health. Looking at current events and national policy through a health perspective, we see that our immigration laws are powerful determinants of health for immigrants in the United States.  In the past, few public health researchers have focused on the ways immigration policies affect the rights, opportunities, and health of immigrants. But the public health field is increasingly taking notice that immigration policy is health policy. We believe that we will be more likely to achieve justice for immigrants and healthier communities when public health professionals understand (and address) the social and policy contexts that impact immigrant communities.

Last year, the American Public Health Association issued a policy statement supporting an end to the Secure Communities enforcement program.  The American Journal of Public Health published a recent study calling for more research on how state-level immigration policies, specifically, SB 1070, affect public health.  A growing number of researchers are trying to document and understand how policies and the experience of being undocumented affects health, such as immigrants’ access to health care (Stevens et al., 2010; Vargas Bustamante et al., 2011) and the impact of family separation, legal vulnerability, and stress in undocumented families (Arbona et al., 2010; Brabeck and Xu, 2010).

This is an important starting point!  Yet, the immediate experiences of immigrants and their families are the result of the full context of their lives in the United States, as well as our nation’s often anti-immigrant history, culture, politics, and laws.  Public health research and action must reflect this full picture.  

We have created a framework to illustrate the web of factors related to laws and policies that have an impact on the health of immigrants.

Immigration and Health Diagram_6

1) Our laws and policies are rooted in historical, political and cultural contexts.  The US has implemented immigration policies since it founding, including deportation and exclusionary policies such as the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882. Each wave of anti-immigrant policy has been driven by racist and xenophobic narratives – immigrants viewed as a threat or as undeserving. The legacies of these cultural narratives and harmful policies continue to impact how immigrants are treated both in our political and popular debates and narratives.

2) These laws and policies influence the circumstances of immigrant’s lives, specifically their rights, resources, and safety.  Can immigrants access appropriate and affordable health care services? Do immigrant workers receive fair wages and are they safe in their workplaces? Are immigrant children able to attend schools and universities?  Do immigrants feel respected and safe in their communities? All of these questions are decided by specific federal, state, and local policies that expand or limit the rights and resources that determine the opportunities for immigrants and their families, as well as their overall safety in this nation as they pursue those opportunities.  These three factors are interconnected, as rights can create safety and access to resources or safety and resources can support individuals to exercise their rights.

3) These three factors are also inseparable, because the positive presence of all three are needed to promote positive physical, mental and community health outcomes.
When protective factors – such as access to health and educational services – align, immigrants will experience greater health and well-being. The lack of any or all three of these, such as limited access to employment and educational opportunities, stress and fear due to discrimination and anti-immigrant legislation, or vulnerability to violence, result in significant health risks.

Public health professionals and immigrants rights activists will have to make critical assessments of how existing and proposed policies may protect or harm the health of our nation’s immigrants. Our hope is that this diagram provides a framework for considering how various immigration policies may actually impact immigrant communities.  For example, the debate on “comprehensive immigration reform” is just heating up. It is heartening that there is growing support for a path to citizenship, but the proposals currently being developed would make the process lengthy and burdensome and continue existing bans on receiving public benefits. The proposals would also further codify border militarization and enforcement programs. Public health has an important role to play in these debates – ensuring that the true community costs are considered as immigration policy decisions move forward.

When we look at this diagram, we also see many opportunities for action! People working in all areas of public health can incorporate an immigrants rights perspective into their work. In the coming months, we will provide information and discussion on some of the main health issue areas in this diagram. And we will share ideas and opportunities for health and immigration activists alike to participate in this work.

Stay tuned to the Curious Ostrich for up-to-date health research and analysis.


Not Too Late For Reform: a new report on inhumane conditions in immigrant detention centers in Kentucky and Illinois, 12/12/11

14 Dec
A new report by the National Immigrant Justice Center and the Midwest Coalition for Human Rights exposes the persisting inhumane conditions in three immigrant detention centers: Jefferson County Jail and Tri-County Detention Center in Illinois and Boone County Jail in Kentucky. The report documents the following:

  • Many detainees have no criminal history or have been charged with only minor offenses. In Kentucky’s Boone County Jail, at least 50% of detainees assessed for legal relief fell into this category.
  • Detainees are denied access to legal counsel. Investigators found that an estimated 84% of immigrant detainees had no access to attorneys. Complicating things further, individuals must either pay for an attorney or rely on scarcely available pro bono services.
  • Detention centers violate basic human rights such as access to food and medical services. While ICE’s National Detention Standards states that detainees should be served two hot meals every day, detainees in Illinois’ Jefferson County Jail go hungry, and report receiving a hot meal only once every two weeks.
  • Detainees are denied adequate medical services and are required to pay for them, which they often cannot afford. In one case, an HIV positive detainee was not allowed to see a doctor for more than six weeks.

These detention centers are an example of how current immigration policies are a threat to public health.  As a result of these policies, the detention system has been created for the sole purpose of locking-up individuals, for indefinite periods of time, who are waiting for their immigration case to be reviewed.  Current Federal regulations allow for little oversight of detention centers and, as a result, abuse is rampant.  Sadly, the reports of inhumane conditions across the detention system have become a common occurrence. As we have written in previous blog posts and factsheets, additional investigations find that detention guards physically and sexually abuse many immigrant detainees. In a recent editorial, the New York Times, called upon the U.S. to fulfill promises to reform detentions centers to eliminate these abuses, rely on other means for deporting individuals, and provide detainees more access to the legal system.

The conditions in these detention centers mark a clear failure by our federal government. In 2009, it had announced it would improve these centers. This year is rapidly ending, and 2012 will likely arrive with no change in these deplorable conditions. The Obama administration should be held accountable to making significant changes in 2012. One first step would be to close the worst detention centers that violate human rights, including Boone County Jail, Jefferson County Jail, and Tri-County Detention Center in the Midwest.

Other News 12/5 – 12/12:

Supreme Court to Rule on Immigration Law in Arizona, The New York Times, 12.12.11
On Monday, the Supreme Court that it would decide whether Arizona had the authority to impose anti-immigrant policies despite objections from the Obama administration. The decision is likely to come in the middle of next year’s presidential campaign and is joined by other major cases, such as challenges to Mr. Obama’s health care law.

Judge blocks Alabama immigration rule on mobile homes, The Guardian, 12.12.11
A federal judge temporarily blocks part of Alabama’s discriminatory anti-immigrant law, one which would have required residents to show proof of citizenship when registering their mobile homes with the state.

Occupy Birmingham: Immigrant Rights are crucial to the Occupy movement, Colorlines, 12.7.11
On Saturday, members of the Occupy Birmingham movement marched with other Alabama civic and religious organizations to the Etowah County Detention Center to protest the state’s harsh immigration law, which has been challenged in court as racial profiling, among other things.
Occupy Birmingham says it has a long list of objections to the law, H.B. 56, but it names the jailing of people for profit as one of the factors that ties the Occupy movement with immigrant rights.

Initiative would give California undocumented immigrants safe harbor, Sacramento Bee, 12.3.11
Nearly a million undocumented immigrants could live and work openly in California with little or no fear of deportation under an initiative unveiled Friday by a state legislator and others. Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, D-Sylmar, is helping to spearhead the measure, called the California Opportunity and Prosperity Act.

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