Undocumented immigrants need better access to health care, say Baker Institute experts

Red hand dropping a ballot with the medical symbol on it

HOUSTON – (Oct. 20, 2020) – Health care is a top voter issue this year, and for undocumented immigrants, the barriers to access are many.

“The outcome of this election — including the presidential election, the election in the Senate (where 35 Senate seats are to be decided) and the election of representatives for all 435 congressional districts — will determine how immigration and health care reform will be addressed in the future,” according to an op-ed in Medical News Today by experts at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA).

Luz Garcini, nonresident scholar at the Baker Institute, and Pamela Cruz, research analyst at the institute’s Center for the United States and Mexico, are available to discuss the topic with the news media. They co-authored the op-ed with Cristina Abraham of UTSA.

“Access to health care, including mental health services and resources, has been a long-standing challenge for undocumented immigrants in the U.S.,” the authors wrote. “Obstacles include the inability to afford health care due to cost or a lack of insurance, limited access to health services that are culturally and contextually sensitive to the needs of undocumented immigrants, and a fear of being stigmatized, discriminated against, deported or all three.”

Conflicting policies, anti-immigrant rhetoric and fears of data misuse by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement add to the “stress, depression, anxiety and trauma-related distress faced by this population,” the authors wrote.

“These barriers are often at the forefront of limiting access to health care," they added. "The fear among undocumented communities has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Undocumented immigrants, many of whom are working in industries classified as essential, face the difficult position of having to work while having little to no financial or health protections.” they continued.

Garcini, Cruz and Abraham urged voters to think beyond politics.

“The success of our future government must transcend the divide between red and blue or left and right, as well as the ideological conflict between liberalism and conservatism, to facilitate access to mental health care for this essential yet marginalized population,” they concluded.

To schedule an interview with Garcini and Cruz or for more information, contact Avery Franklin, media relations specialist at Rice, at averyrf@rice.edu or 713-348-6327.


Related materials:

Op-ed: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/us-election-2020-undocumented-status-and-mental-healthcare-access.

Follow the Baker Institute’s Center for the United States and Mexico via Twitter @BakerCtrUSMEX.

Follow Rice News and Media Relations via Twitter @RiceUNews.

Founded in 1993, Rice University’s Baker Institute ranks as the No. 2 university-affiliated think tank in the world and the No. 1 energy think tank in the world. As a premier nonpartisan think tank, the institute conducts research on domestic and foreign policy issues with the goal of bridging the gap between the theory and practice of public policy. The institute’s strong track record of achievement reflects the work of its endowed fellows, Rice University faculty scholars and staff, coupled with its outreach to the Rice student body through fellow-taught classes — including a public policy course — and student leadership and internship programs. Learn more about the institute at www.bakerinstitute.org or on the institute’s blog, http://blog.bakerinstitute.org.