Immigrants Avoid Necessary Health Care
Many immigrants have been shying away from seeking health care because they fear being deported. The chances of being caught in a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid or being separated from their families might outweigh receiving proper medical care. The constant worry of deportation leads undocumented immigrants to avoid doctors and medical centers, as they are afraid of encountering immigration authorities. This can lead them to live without addressing serious health issues, and neglecting reproductive health and prenatal care.
Advocates Speak Out
A fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health stated that patients wait until the symptoms are very severe to see a health care specialist. Planned Parenthood Federation of America added that immigrants frequently forgo preventive care, which can lead to sexually transmitted infections, birth problems, and cancers. Routine screenings, such as mammograms, that can detect cancers are also avoided.
Fear in Chicago
A community health worker from Chicago shared a story about a Mexican immigrant with undiagnosed diabetes. He was suffering from gangrene, and part of his toe was eventually amputated. Although his family urged him to seek medical care, he feared that immigration agents might be at the hospital and stayed away.
Another Chicago medical professional who worked at a community clinic stated that 90 percent of her patients were immigrants. She felt that the climate of high anxiety was keeping immigrants from seeking care; she has witnessed people crying in her office because they were worried about deportation.
Draft Rules and Barriers
It was reported by Reuters that the Department of Homeland Security was considering drafting rules that might make it more difficult for immigrants to obtain permanent residency status if they or their American-born children were using public benefits, including health insurance. Many are thinking about opting out of other benefits, like Medicaid and food stamps, to protect their chances of obtaining green cards in the future. These fears also spill into other areas, as parents fear taking their children for doctor and dental check-ups and enrolling them in certain schools. Some that are here legally also worry about their information getting into the wrong hands.
Another barrier to getting health care and other services is a lack of money, especially those without insurance. In Chicago, some groups have stepped up to help. The University of Illinois at Chicago and Immaculate Conception Parish are working together to provide counseling for these families, and Saint Anthony Hospital of Little Village also offers assistance.
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