Immigrant Health and Wellbeing in Spaces of Sanctuary

Presenter: Debby Nguyen

Research Category: Interdisciplinary Topics, Centers and Institutes
Additional Authors: Alisa Lincoln, Ashley Houston, Emily Alves

Barriers and enablers of access of the healthcare system among immigrants in the US are well documented. Immigrants, particularly if undocumented, face challenges accessing healthcare and/or receiving appropriate and culturally competent care. Studies indicate that immigrants in the US often face discrimination, which has known delirious effects on health. Especially in today’s political climate as federal policy increasingly restricts immigration, ramps up detention and deportation efforts, fear has contributed to the growing challenges of accessing healthcare for immigrant groups. However, an area of research unexplored is how local state and city policy may influence health and overall experiences within the health system among immigrants. In contrast to federal policy, cities with local sanctuary ordinances have become spaces of resistance to harsh federal immigration policies. In this project, we will analyze data collected as part of a larger study of sanctuary policies in two US cities -Boston and Seattle- to explore the causes of the barriers immigrants face in navigating the healthcare system and the health impacts of local policies on immigrants’ experiences. The research data that we draw from contains forty-six qualitative interviews with community stakeholders in Boston and Seattle that work closely with immigrant communities. Stakeholders were recruited from health, legal, non-governmental, faith-based, activist, advocacy, and education organizations that work with immigrants and are involved in the sanctuary movement. In presenting our analysis within the context of sanctuary spaces, we hope to illuminate if and how sanctuary cities’ policies affect healthcare access and related experiences of immigrants.