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‘Whether it’s reality or perception,’ immigrants seeking healthcare ‘are living in fear’ of deportation

MCC's policy forum on immigration. October 4, 2017 Category: EventFeaturedMediumMethod
If you’re at risk of being separated from your family via deportation, how are you going to confidently navigate government bureaucracy?

A month ago, Donald Trump called on Congress to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which provides legal protections for over 800,000 people. In Philly, 107 immigrants were detained just last week, the highest number detained in local raids in the country.

Many workers at organizations that provide social services, especially healthcare, are concerned about the lack of benefit access available to immigrants, and many unauthorized immigrants are fearful of pursuing social benefits, such as food stamps and Medicaid, because it could put them at risk of deportation.

Yesterday, Maternity Care Coalition (MCC), which serves pregnant and postpartum women and families with children under 3 years old in Southeastern Pennsylvania, held its fall policy forum on “Advocating for Immigrant Women, Children and Families.” Presenters included:

  • Maripat Pileggi, an attorney at Community Legal Services
  • Dr. Jack Ludmir, senior VP for physician engagement and integration and the associate provost for community and global initiatives at Thomas Jefferson University
  • Nelly Jiménez-Arévalo, executive director and CEO of ACCLAMO
  • Dr. Julia DeJoseph, physician and a clinical leader at Maria de Los Santos Health Center

Here are some takeaways from their presentations.

Some immigrants can legally receive care.

Pileggi spoke about different types of immigration status to explain which immigrants are eligible to apply for social services. For instance, qualified immigrants who may apply are those who hold green cards, Violence Against Women self-petitioners, humanitarian immigrants (including refugees and asylees) and those granted parole for at least a year.

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However, she stressed that when seeking social services, people without status should never be asked for documentation of their status and should never provide any such documentation. Social service officers can face legal discipline if they do.

Prenatal care matters.

Dr. Ludmir admitted how frustrating the climate of healthcare access has become because so many oppose the idea that healthcare is a human right. However, prenatal care is closely tied to both parent and infant mortality rates, which is particularly urgent for women fleeing domestic violence in their native countries.

Education is key.

“Whether it’s reality or perception, clients are living in fear,” Jiménez-Arévalo said.

There is an increasing worry in the immigrant community of sharing personal information because they aren’t educated about their privacy rights. This difficulty results from an overall lack of educational access, she said: Many immigrants haven’t learned how to speak, read and write in English.

Health services for immigrants benefit everyone.

Dr. DeJoseph mentioned specific types of healthcare immigrants need access to, including but not limited to: comprehensive primary care, preventative care, chronic disease care, acute care, mental health care, routine pediatric care, health education and laboratory services.

When people are discouraged from applying for healthcare benefits, it’s is a public health issue, she said. For example, when immigrants don’t receive preventative care, such as routine immunizations, they affect the health of the overall population.

MCC also stressed the importance of social service professionals contacting their representatives on behalf of undocumented immigrants who don’t have political influence and cannot vote on issues that affect them. Additionally, New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia educates immigrant families on what to do in the event of a raid as well as trains communities of faith to fight for immigrant justice.

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