This Makes Me Mad…Immigration Policy

When our government takes actions on behalf of our country, this reflects on all of our values.  So, earlier this year I was disgusted and angry when I learned that as part of a ‘zero tolerance’ rule, young children were separated from their parents and placed in something akin to cages.  For me, this is a stain on our country’s history that could be compared to other atrocities like the Tuskegee experiments and Japanese internment during WWII.  While this policy was more short-lived, there are still children separated from their parents and for the children involved the consequences could be life-long.  Sadly, our entire country is responsible because we elected this administration which adopted these policies.

Now, this administration which seems incapable of any shame, is planning more steps that should make decent persons upset. Additional threats to lawful immigrants are being devised (KM Perreira et al. NEJM 2018; 379: 901-3).

“Under current guidelines, persons labeled as potential public charges can be denied legal entry to the United States” and in some cases deported.  Public-charge guidelines aim to keep immigrants from relying on public charges (eg. cash-assistance programs like welfare) for the first 5 years after admission to the U.S.

“The Trump administration is proposing sweeping changes to these [public-charge] guidelines.”  One of these proposed expansions of public-charge determination is including enrollment for Obamacare, which is legally mandated and which can include subsidies.  Another target is the Children’s Health Insurance Program.  As a consequence of these guideline changes, instead of ~3% of lawful immigrants being considered as receiving a public charge, if adopted, this would increase to a range from 32% to 47%.

If these policies are adopted, this is likely to have a lot of adverse health consequences.  Immigrants, including U.S.-born children, will be less likely to receive health care and more likely to be food insecure; 25% of U.S.-born children of immigrants currently receive SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance program) benefits. Health consequences will affect millions and include an increase in low birth infants, increased infant mortality, and increased maternal morbidity.

For health care providers and institutions, implementation of these policies is likely to result in higher costs from uncompensated care.

In related commentaries (BL Grace et al. NEJM 2018; 379: 904-5, M Martin. NEJM 2018; 379: 906-7), the authors note the following points:

  • “Current immigration policies are undermining trust in U.S institutions…and changing the way immigrants and refugees seek health care.”  Many are worried that seeking health care could lead directly or indirectly (after providing information) to deportation
  • “Even naturalized citizens fear that their status is no longer secure.”
  • “I feel sad that my colleague’s 6-year-old patient has nightmares and urinary incontinence because she is terrified her parents will be deported.  Sad that my patients fear coming to the hospital despite grave illness out of panic that someone will ask about their immigration status.”

My take: We are all accomplices (many unwitting) in the roll out of these detrimental policies that are now affecting lawful immigrants..

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