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Student reflection: The impact of states' policies on the health of undocumented immigrants


 by Griselda Ortiz

 UCLA Blum Center Student Assistant

On April 16th, the UCLA Blum Center on Poverty and Health in Latin America, the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the UC Global Health Institute released a joint report that identified the states with the most inclusive and exclusive policies and laws affecting the health of undocumented immigrants. Unsurprisingly, California ranked as the state with the most policies supporting the health and well-being of its undocumented population. But more remarkably, the report exposed Ohio, Alabama, Arizona, Indiana, and Mississippi as the states with the most exclusionary policies which negatively affect the health of undocumented immigrants.

I had the opportunity to attend the seminar hosted on April 16th and the UC Global Health Day on April 18th where Dr. Michael Rodriguez and Dr. Steve Wallace presented the findings of their joint report and discussed its implications. As an undergraduate student in the Department of Political Science, I was very interested in the release of this new study. Over the past few years, the growth of undocumented immigrants in the United States, along with the implementation of federal legislation such as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) in 2012, have heightened a national controversy over unauthorized immigration. However, there remains a lack of academic research focusing on the needs and troubles encountered by this growing community. Hence, the significance of the report released on April 16th - it examines a generally marginalized community and shows that an unequal access to healthcare services institutionalized through state policies negatively affects the health of millions of undocumented immigrants. 

For the rest of the attendees and myself, the findings of the report prompted various questions. The most recurrent being, why do some states have more friendly and inclusive policies towards undocumented immigrants while other states display a more exclusionary behavior? As this question was left unanswered, it calls for further research and analysis of a prevalent problem in our society. Dr. Michael Rodriguez, co-author of the report, emphasized that state policies that harm the health of undocumented immigrants do not only affect said undocumented immigrant and their families, but our society as a whole. For "undocumented immigrants are an important part of the economic, political, and social fabric of our nation." As Dr. Rodriguez and Dr. Wallace brought to light this crucial problem during the UC Global Health Day, I am certain that many attendees, all scholars and researchers from diverse academic fields, were inspired and stirred to address this social issue.  

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