Tag Archives: Housing

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.


SUCCESS @ Wells Fargo! 10/31-11/6

7 Nov
Action at Wells Fargo Nov.5th, protesting investment in detention centers.

Photo by Roxanne Robledo

On November 5th, an overcast Saturday morning, the group 67 Sueños organized an action at Wells Fargo in Oakland to protest its investment in the nation’s privatized immigrant detention system. As outlined in this helpful flier we created, which can be found on our Resources page, the immigrant detention system is notorious for its abuses.  While learning about these abuses was surprising to some people, what has been more surprising is Wells Fargo’s involvement in our nation’s abusive detention system. Wells Fargo invests in the Geo Group the Corrections Corporation of America, two large corporations that run immigration detention centers for a profit. The profits come at the cost of the health and well-being of individuals caught up in detention and deportation system. Continue reading

3/28-4/3 – Pushed to the brink: Why the United States is not the “land of the free”

3 Apr

Mexican Immigrants Face Substandard Housing, NY Times, 3-29-2011

‘Silent raids’ squeeze undocumented workers, Wall Street Journal, 3-29-2011

Confusion over policy on married gay immigrants, NY Times, 3-29-2011

The discrimination that undocumented workers are facing, especially in this rough economy, is having a rippling effect on multiple levels. A recent New York Times article reported on a housing study that revealed that Mexican immigrants in New York are experiencing some of the toughest housing conditions: “About 43 percent of all Mexican immigrant households are overcrowded” and “35 percent of Mexican households spend more than half their income on rent.” Sadly, the results of this study comes as no surprise since undocumented workers aren’t even given the right to have decent-paying jobs that they deserve just as much as any human being. Instead, undocumented immigrants are being fired left and right as the result of employment audits, also termed “silent raids,” that have been happening under the Obama administration. Left with few to no options, these workers are forced into lower-paying jobs that potentially exploit them even more because of their undocumented status. Another article in the New York Times discussed how undocumented gay immigrants face yet another double-standard, which at this point should be a quadruple-standard: “While it is routine for American citizens in heterosexual couples to obtain green cards for their foreign spouses, the Defense of Marriage Act has barred such status for immigrants in same-sex marriages.”

As a country that prides itself on being “the land of the free,” it is shameful that our policies serve to make our newest arrivals economically and legally vulnerable while only protecting the interests/opportunities of the privileged. How is this an equal opportunity and free country? Instead of trying to deport all undocumented immigrants and in the process destroying lives and spending enormous amounts of money, we should establish a path – and a right – to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who are trying to have a better life for themselves and their children. Shouldn’t we all have this basic right? I think so.

In Other News

Deported 4-yr old citizen Emily Ruiz finally comes home, Colorlines, 3-30-2011

4 year old Emily Ruiz is reunited with her parents after wrongfully being deported to Guatemala.

Arizona SB 1070 copycats fall flat in most state legislatures, Colorlines, 3-31-2011

COLORLINES’ Seth Wessler describes the status of legislations like Arizona’s SB 1070’s in states across the country such as Mississippi and Georgia. While as many as 14 states have attempted to pass what Wessler terms “show me your papers” bills, almost all have or are expected to fail. He attributes this achievement partly to community mobilization and business lobbyists.