There has been a dramatic rise in the number of immigrants detained by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), with over 400,000 people detained annually, and an average daily population of over 39,000 detained. People held in immigration detention facilities are often held in county jails in New York and New Jersey, in addition to the private ICE-run jails. They lack a legal guarantee of access to medical care.
ICE has released several sets of standards for meeting the health needs of people detained, but these guidelines are neither standardized nor binding. Human rights organizations and investigative journalists have reported substandard medical care at several detention facilities, resulting in poor health outcomes and even in-custody deaths.1 To file medical complaints, people held in detention often rely on lawyers who are not equipped to decipher medical records and are often unable to contact ICE or jail physicians for further inquiry. The role of non-ICE affiliated physician in these cases is key. By partnering with immigration lawyers to review medical records and advocate on behalf of people held in detention, community physicians can make a significant impact on the health and lives of those detained. The net effect of this government's measures is the criminalization of immigration, resulting in deleterious effects on the health of immigrants, their families and our communities alike. Parents are arrested in front of their children; at times family members are not able to locate their loved ones until after they are deported. Children who have an undocumented parent have significantly higher rates of PTSD. There is evidence that families are foregoing applying for benefits such as WIC, SNAP, or CHIP for fear that their information will be reported to federal authorities. Given the collective trauma communities are experiencing as a result of mass deportation, it is necessary to connect physicians to the community spaces where the grass-roots movements are organizing, to gain insights into how to mitigate the negative health effects of our current policies, and further work to dismantle the immigration detention system.
This condensed version of these workshops was inspired by liberation medicine month which emphasizes the conscientious use of health to promote social justice and human dignity. It parallels prior work on incarceration health and mass incarceration, adapting to the current political climate where immigrant communities are being targeted as scapegoats, making immigration status a critical social determinant of health. Medical residents will learn how mass incarceration, detention and deportation as a public health issue and will be trained in social activism.
Examine barriers to medical care faced by persons held in immigration detention and evaluate their health consequences.
2. Interpret and synthesize relevant medical information in order to write effective advocacy letters on behalf of people detained.
Build immigration-focused medico-legal partnerships.
4. Create partnerships with community-based organizations with the aims of understanding how mass deportation is impacting the health of the community, listening to proposed solutions, and identifying ways in which health care professionals can contribute to existing efforts.
Participate in organizing efforts to end mass detention and deportation.
Agenda of Workshop:
I. Skills building- The Detention Evaluation
a. Overview of history of the immigration detention system, and current immigration policies as they pertain to immigration detention from a social justice/human rights framework.
i. Review of medical records and/or declarations, Letter writing
II. Community partnerships
a. Building community partnerships and why this is important in the work to dismantle the mass detention and deportation machine.
b. Advocacy (this should be guided by the dialogues with community members and organizations, may include participation in rallies or town hall meetings, writing op-eds, or organizing around hospital and/or clinic policy).
III. Building immigration-focused medico-legal partnerships that can address the legal needs of patients for which immigration status is a social determinant of health.