2107 General Assembly Live Blog- Standing Up for Immigrants and Refugees

Standing up for immigrants and refugees: an interactive workshop

Public Health Actions for Immigrant Rights

Started with a few statistics:

  • 11,000,000 undocumented immigrants live in the US currently

  • 4,500,000 US-citizen children live in families in which at least 1 person is undocumented

  • 150,000+ US-citizen kids a year had a parent deported

Unfortunately under Obama 2.5 million people were quietly deported. Largely these were people who had something on their record, unclear what these charges were. Unfortunately there is now a widening net of reasons for deportation and Trump has said he wants to deport as many as 2 million people.

Looking back at history, there have been many examples of mass deportation, including in the great depression (2 million Mexican-American people, including 1 million US citizens), and 1954 ‘Operation Wetback’ when Eisenhower deported 3.8 million Mexican-Americans. Often times anti-immigration forces depict a constant flow of ‘illegals’ across the border. What is not acknowledged is that this influx of people is driven by industry-demanded jobs.

Fear of deportation makes communities less healthy: people are afraid to drive, walk, use parks and exercise outdoors, use public services like clinics, and are afraid to get involved in their communities. The threat of deportation also makes law enforcement more difficult if they are targets of crime. Some specific examples of this include victims of domestic violence being less likely to go to the police, and chronic stress has been shown in many studies to exacerbate mental illness, as well as chronic medical conditions.

Actions we can take!

  • Promote policies to provide services to all people, and ensure all people feel welcome

    • Research your agency’s policies for legal accuracy

    • Publicly state that your agency is committed to serving undocumented people

    • Post signs that are linguistically sensitive, avoid alienating vocabulary

    • Train staff in proper response to ICE action

    • Ensure availability of trained interpreters

    • Ensure affordability of healthcare services

    • Ensure you are not collecting data that could identify people as undocumented

    • Ideas from groups:

      • Have an organizational policy regarding how to respond to ICE requests at clinics and train clinic staff

      • Focus on funding education for DACA students

  • Connect undocumented clients & their families w/legal rights & community organizing groups

    • Many services and groups already exist to support undocumented residents/families

      • Build capacity: develop leadership, reduce isolation/fear, avoid unnecessary contact with the police

      • Help take action: help resist deportations, ‘underground railroad’ sanctuary churches, sanctuary restaurants, organizing for community-based healthcare

    • Healthcare institutions being committed or affiliated w/faith based organizations

      • Asking for help hosting families

    • Mobile clinics, ex. University of Miami

      • Working directly w/legal services

    • Social workers need to be trained in being able to refer people to services if they do not have insurance

    • NYC finances lawyers for everyone in immigration court

      • Sold as a ‘family unification’ bill

  • Review other health agency services and consider how undocumented populations may be impacted

    • Examples:

      • Evacuation in the case of natural disaster (Katrina)

      • Preparation in case of family member deportation

        • Consider getting involved with schools

      • Cooperation with emergency response/responders

    • From the groups:

      • Working w/faith groups to organize, disseminate information, and come up with plans

  • Work to change a narrative that portrays undocumented people negatively

    • Elected officials and media influence public view on all immigrants

    • The dominant narrative can be incredibly harmful

      • The language ‘illegal’

      • Incorrect claims that undocumented immigrants take jobs from US citizens & are a drain on the economy

      • ‘Good vs bad’ immigrants; deporting ‘criminals’ creates safer communities

        • The RAISE Act - being proposed right now

          • Selects for highly skilled workers

    • Narratives and framing are critical to policy change

    • From the groups:

      • Highlighting the success stories

        • Ex. Sudanese population in Louiston, Maine

      • 287B - deputizing local law enforcement

        • Currently only 1% of sheriffs across the country have done this

        • It’s important to know if your town has been deputized

      • MA - The Safe Communities Act

      • Reach out to your local news station

      • Much of this is not about immigration status but about racism

      • Target this info to smart phones

‘No human is illegal. That is a contradiction in terms. Human beings can be beautiful or more beautiful, they can be fat or skinny, they can be right or wrong, but illegal? How can a human being be illegal.’ - Elie Wiesel

Resources:

http://publichealthawakened.com/guide-for-public-health-to-protect-immigrant-rights/

No one is illegal, Chacon & Davis

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