Tag Archives: Mental Health

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.


Rick Santorum and the SMU Pep Band, 3/12-3/19

22 Mar

Rick SantorumBoth underdogs, former Senator Santorum and the musical cheer section for Southern Mississippi University’s (SMU) Men’s basketball team tried to shake up their respective contests with anti-Latino statements this past week.

Rick Santorum made his gaffe in the territory of Puerto Rico, he was visiting with the hope of winning the islands 20 delegates for the Republican presidential nomination. One of the major issues for Puerto Rico is the decision to become the US’s 51st state. The standard political line, taken by both President Obama and former governor Romney is to support Puerto Rico in whatever decision it makes. The decision is complex, with many fervent supporters for and against statehood, making the sidestep a safe political calculation.

Rick Santorum trails by several hundred delegates in the race for the Republican nomination, leaving him with few options. One available strategy, the high-risk/high-reward is to make bold statements with the goal of dramatically swinging the race. Consider this the hail-mary strategy. On Thursday, Santorum implemented the strategy by setting a precondition for Puerto Rico’s statehood, that English be the principal language. He made a claim that it was a requirement put forth by congress.

At Factcheck.org they looked into the matter and found that there is no rule from congress that requires English to be the principal language. Besides, English is already one of Puerto Ricos’ two official languages. That of course is not the point. Santorum was tapping into that xenophobic conservative vote with the precondition. Some analysts from the Chicago Tribune say that the statement was no gaffe, but a wise choice that will pay dividends when the primaries return to the mainland. Already secure with the social conservative vote, it is perplexing to think that he and his advisors continue to pander to intolerant viewpoints. Yet, they did.

Angel Rodriguez

The next day, at a game of the NCAA Men’s March Madness tournament between Kansas State and SMU, a similar strain of xenophobia was displayed. This time, the focus was on a freshman Basketball player from Puerto Rico, Angel Rodriguez. When the 19 year old Boricuan stepped up to the foul line just minutes before the end of the first half, the Southern Mississippi University Pep Band broke into a chant of “Where’s Your Green Card?”, referring to his birthplace outside of the mainland US.

Like Santorum, the SMU Pep Band had their facts wrong. Puerto Rico citizens are US citizens, making resident visas or green cards irrelevant. The students may have been inspired by the Mississippi state house which had just advanced an anti-immigrant bill. The SMU president apologized after the fervor generated from her university’s band.

These are two examples of how prejudice shapes the social environment, denigrating immigrants and their cultures. When comments like these are allowed to pass unchallenged, fear, stress, and diminished self-worth become accepted elements of the US social environment. One positive outcome of the week’s attacks on Puerto Ricans was the backlash it brought: Santorum received only 8% of the vote in Puerto Rico and the SMU Pep Band was publicly rebuked. It may be a sign that the are some limits to outright xenophobia in the United States.

In other news
CAD Walk Update: A resolution of support from the CA State Assembly, Sac Bee, 3.19.12
Six CAD walkers have been recognized for their efforts by the representatives of California. On Monday, the assembly passed a resolution recognizing their efforts with a standing ovation. The walkers will be soon be outside California as they continue their journey to Washington, DC. Unfortunately, one walker, Jose Gonzalez will have to return to San Diego to attend to deportation proceedings that have started against him.

Task force determines mental health care immigrants inadequate, more research needed, Medical Xpress, 3.7.12
Task Chair said  “We have identified an urgent need in scientific research and clinical settings to consider the unique aspects of immigrant populations, particularly with regard to culture and language.”

The political impact of coming out undocumented on immigrant rights, Multi-American, 3.14.12
A review of the recent trends of undocumented youth “coming out,” accompanied by an analysis that concludes that the effort has largely been a success because the actions put human faces on immigration policies. Some youth also reported feeling more protected because they were out in public, and had support of the community around them..

Youth Speak Out About the Mental Health Impacts of Immigration Policies, 1/30-2/6

8 Feb
Yanelli Hernandez

Yanelli Hernandez

By: Naomi Beyeler

This week marked the first annual Undocumented Youth Mental Health Day – called by the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA) to raise awareness about the mental health impacts of our immigration system. In selecting January 31 as Undocumented Mental Health Day, NIYA drew attention to the deportation case of 22-year old Yanelli Hernandez. Yanelli lived and attended school in the US since she was 13. Separated from her family and facing deportation, Yanelli twice attempted suicide while in detention. She was deported on February 1. While stories about Yanelli or Joaquin Luna only occasionally reach mainstream media, the fact is that undocumented youth face high rates of stress, anxiety and depression – often resulting from the insecurity and fear, family separation, limited educational and job opportunities, and discrimination that accompany our immigration and deportation system. Continue reading

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