Immigrant rights are under attack, what public health should do to fight back

By Jonathan Heller

President Trump’s 100 day plan includes deporting 2 million undocumented residents from the US. The plan represents a massive increase in scale and speed of deportations. Trump says he will focus on deporting undocumented people with criminal records. With fewer of them in the US now as a result of President Obama’s policies, Trump has already expanded the definition of who is a ‘criminal’ to include people who are merely charged or suspected of committing crimes. Being in the US without documents may become a ‘criminal’ act. Sensitive locations, like schools and clinics, may be raided. People without criminal records will get entangled in the Trump administration’s efforts.

During the Great Depression, county social workers supported and participated in the deportation of 2 million Mexican American people, including 1 million US citizens.

We in public health can’t do this again. We can’t support the deportation of people who have come to the US to escape violence and poverty. We can’t support the break up of families, many of whom have members that are US citizens. There are 4.5 million US-citizen children live in families with someone who is undocumented. We can’t sit this out and watch. So, in response to Trump’s plans, many of us developed Public Health Actions for Immigrant Rights: A Short Guide to Protecting Undocumented Residents and Their Families for the Benefit of Public Health and All Society (also available as a PDF).

Immigration is a personal issue for me. My parents came to the US from Israel before I was born. My partner’s father came over from the Philippines before she was born. They were all highly educated. Because my parents are perceived to be White, they had a relatively easy time finding jobs and fitting in. It was an OK time for Jews to be coming over. But because my partner’s father was perceived to be Brown, he didn’t have the same opportunities. In fact, when my partner’s parents got married, it wasn’t even legal for them to do so in many states. He was the target of racism and couldn’t find a job in his field. This contributed to pressures on his marriage, divorce, and his return to the Philippines. He died there at age 50.

Left image: My partner, Connie, with her father and younger brother. Right image: My older brother, my mother, and me.

Many people have similar stories.

Immigration is also a public health issue. Deportations contradict public health values such as preventing harm, valuing every life, and equity. Our Family Unity, Family Health report shows that deportations harm health in many ways. For example:

And that is just the tip of the iceberg. The guide goes into more detail.

So here are the 9 actions pubic health agencies can take:

Read more about all these here. And then…fight back!

Note: Public Health Actions for Immigrant Rights (also available as a PDF) was developed by Public Health Awakened, a group of public health professionals courageously organizing a health equity-based response to the Trump administration. We will update the guide as more information becomes available. Feel free to contact Jonathan with suggestions and implementation stories.

This blog post was originally published on The Pump Handle blog.

Bringing the power of public health to campaigns and movements for a just society

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store