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:
Peter J. Guarnaccia
As a long-term advocate of universal health care, I am cautiously optimistic that current bills will make a positive difference for many. But as someone who has rapidly become more involved with transnational Mexican communities and their health issues, I am dismayed by the current refusal to include unauthorized immigrants in the health care plan.
In preparing our book, A Death Retold: Jesica Santillan, the Bungled Transplant, and Paradoxes of Medical Citizenship (2006), Keith Wailoo, Julie Livingston and I organized two conferences to discuss issues of organ transplantation, Latinos in the U.S. health care system, and rights to medical care. I came to this project amazed that Jesica Santillan, an 18-year-old undocumented Mexican immigrant who had come to the U.S. explicitly to try to get a heart-lung transplant, had managed to receive such a procedure. Read more…
University of Texas at El Paso
Representative Joe Wilson famously interrupted President Obama’s health care speech to Congress by shouting “you lie,” just after the President had said that proposed legislation would not provide access to health insurance for undocumented immigrants. Factually, Wilson was wrong. The legislation indeed restricts the undocumented from receiving its benefits. But the central assumption of the debate itself is wrong. Obama claimed that a rigid line had been drawn; Wilson that it was not rigid enough. But on close examination the rigid line fades from sight.
In public health, our fates are connected. The H1N1 flu is a mild reminder of this. When there is a more severe pandemic, we will regret frightening off and making access hard for any of our biological neighbors. To offer a different, but I hope even more persuasive angle: health care access is a matter of mutual moral obligations, a network of ties accumulated throughout society. I know a 100-year-old woman, still in good health but needing a bit of attention. She herself is an immigrant, a citizen and retiree after years of marginalization and hard labor. Her caregiver is undocumented, undergoing the same life of sweat and stigma in the present day. They owe each other their existence. They depend on each other for their health. Read more…
Jennifer S. Hirsch & Emily Vasquez
Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University
What a bitter irony to read about hospitals’ growing willingness “to consider patients’ cultural beliefs and values.” In “A Doctor for Disease, a Shaman for the Soul” (September 19, 2009) the New York Times describes the integration of Shamans and their traditional healing practices, including “soul calling” and chanting, at a hospital in Merced, California, that serves patients from a local Hmong community. The program, meant to build understanding between the Hmong and the medical establishment, exemplifies an approach “being adopted by dozens of medical institutions and clinics across the country that cater to immigrant, refugee and ethnic-minority populations.” Read more…