Welcome to AccessDenied: A Conversation on Unauthorized Im/migration and Health! The aim of this blog is to challenge readers and contributors to re-think the political common sense that denies migrants and immigrants access to health care and impedes their capacity to enjoy the social determinants of good health. We also consider how the increased movement of people across national borders affects the health of receiving communities.
We ask our readers and contributors to consider some morally and politically tough questions:
- Responding to rampant gang violence in Honduras, the Obama administration is considering a proposal to screen minors there to see if they can enter the U.S. on refugee or emergency humanitarian grounds and thus bypass the dangerous migration through Mexico.
- Child migrants from Central America have shared harrowing stories of their journeys through Mexico and across the border, many involving abuse. Sonia Nazario describes the hometown contexts of this group she terms “children of the drug wars.” Commentators attribute the rise in child migration primarily to misinformation about the Obama administration’s Deferred Action program, although some politicians and concerned citizens are training the conversation on political-economic causes including the international weapons trade, crime, and poverty.
- Since October, more than 47,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended on the U.S.-Mexico border, particularly in Arizona and regions of South Texas that have not seen such high immigration in over a decade. (The New York Times Editorial Board provides one of the best overviews of the crisis to date, as well as some suggestions.)
- A recent UNHCR report address some of the reasons for the rise, including gang influences and rumors of immigration permits for youth. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson declared “a level-four condition of readiness” in the Rio Grande Valley and President Obama responded by forming a special task group under FEMA and an initiative to provide child immigrants with lawyers.
- Volunteers with groups such as the Phoenix Restoration Project have struggled to aid women and children “dumped” at bus stations without food, water, or means to contact family members, although there are reports of attempted remedies.
- A recent study finds that undocumented youth, known as the “Dreamers,” are becoming increasingly disenchanted with political parties in the US.
- Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan instructed public schools not to deny enrollment to children of undocumented immigrants, reminding districts that current practices may violate federal law.
- A recent New York Times editorial discusses inattention to complaints regarding Border Patrol agents’ abusive or threatening behavior.
- Lawmakers in California have proposed a bill to include health care coverage for undocumented immigrants, closing a gap created by the Affordable Care Act.
- A 12-year-old girl, Noemi Álvarez Quillay, committed suicide in a children’s shelter on the border after she was picked up by police in Juárez on her second attempt to travel, alone but in the company of smugglers, the long journey from Nicaragua to her parents in the Bronx.
- Twelve people were arrested April 28 in a protest at the White House against deportations.
- On April 30, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. protested deportations by projecting a 60-by-90-foot video onto the side of the union’s headquarters in Washington.
- New Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said comprehensive immigration reform would be necessary to end unjust deportations and keep families together.
- Government records show that two-thirds of the people deported under the Obama administration had committed only minor offenses, contrary to the president’s claim that Immigration and Customs Enforcement prioritizes removing serious criminals (more commentary here and here). Rather than simply deporting them, the administration has chosen to file formal charges of “illegal entry” in 90 percent of cases against people without any previous criminal record, which threatens those caught returning illegally with prison time. However, over the course of Obama’s tenure since 2009, new deportation cases brought by his administration have decreased, albeit not at a rate pleasing to immigrant advocates.
- The New York Times Editorial Board is calling on President Obama to turn his attention away from immigration legislation and finally take executive action to halt deportations of non-criminal immigrants, a recourse the board says is inevitable.