Long a hot-button issue, immigration law is now separating the country – and two countries, the United States and Mexico – like never before. With President Donald Trump ratcheting up his divisive “us vs. them” language, fear and resentment of immigrants is reaching a peak that we didn’t see during the Obama administration or even under George W. Bush. And amid the ongoing crisis – like the violent situation happening right now at the Tijuana border – immigrants in the U.S. often fail to receive the medical attention they need.
Ironically, they would get that medical care by default if they were simply visiting the country. Even prisoners are attended to with treatment. But for immigrants caught in today's faulty immigration law system, the fact is many are being hurt and getting sick while remaining unable to seek treatment.
Here are a few things you should know about the medical situation for immigrants – and why the most recent rulings on immigration are affecting the status of healthcare in the U.S.
Many people, from the middle of the aisle to the far left, have argued that immigrants aren't coming to the U.S. unreasonably but rather to protect themselves from harm. Thousands have been threatened with death if they stay in their home countries. Yet the consequences of GOP immigration laws go well beyond the argument of helping legal citizens over illegal aliens. In fact, refugee children with medical passes to the United States have been rejected due to the Trump Administration’s most recent policies.
We’ve all heard about children being held at the border and separated from their parents who were trying to come over from Mexico. But did you know that some of these children are sick and lacking medical treatment? While there is a “vaccination requirement in some cases and supposed access to physicians,” the fact is that health conditions and basic standards of medical treatment aren't always being met for children detained at the border. Innocent people, among them many children, are suffering right now because of negligence and unjust policies.
Getting the Information That Counts
Conversations around immigration are often filled with misinformation. For instance, there is a common misconception that getting into the U.S. legally is an easy process. On the contrary, it’s extremely costly and tedious, to put it mildly. Others meanwhile believe that those people coming into our country are doing so willingly, from a privileged vantage point. They have it good but are discontent with what they have, some people reason. The assumption couldn't be more false.
While it’s true that America remains a land of opportunity, the reality is that most people currently making the exodus north from Central America are migrating in order to escape dangerous and extremely poor conditions. They're not coming with the intent to "take advantage" of something that “isn’t theirs,” as Fox media and their supporters maintain. Furthermore, there is currently no net immigration coming from Mexico. In other words, neither illegal nor legal immigration are affecting Americans' jobs situation, contrary to a lot of public discourse.
For some, however, it’s not a matter of legality but xenophobia that is driving the anti-immigrant narrative: the simple and irrational fear of people from other countries. Some believe that we should not allow more immigrants inside our borders until we tighten up the vetting process; this includes those coming from Mexico, who supposedly bring crime. But study after study has proven these claims wrong. What many often don't understand is that the vetting process for refugees is in fact very strict, thorough and takes a long while. This also includes the medical examination process, which covers migrants' history of contagious diseases and prior behavior.
It may sound like a cliche but it's true: Change ultimately starts with us. Trump's “America First” mindset pushed voters to believe that “our people” are better than other people. It's a scary way to go about being a global leader – someplace where people turn in urgent need of help and safety. Many on the left believe that Trump’s racist and divisive rhetoric has fuelled the recent wave of hate crimes. It’s risky to make such an absolutist claim; we can’t equate causation with correlation. But rhetoric matters, and on this issue the country simply must change.
As citizens, that means we need to call our senators and urge them to shift policy course on immigration, particularly when it comes to providing migrants with the basic healthcare they need to survive whether they're here legally or not. We must make widely known information about the treatment of immigrants and the failure to provide a sanitary or healthy environment for children suffering in our detainment centers on the border. At the end of the day, spreading accurate information, putting pressure on officials, and voting to elect people who will address the migrant crisis by fighting the administration's dehumanizing policies is a task for all of us.