How You Can Support Immigrants With Urgent Health Needs in Detention

By Ignacio Lopez

Every month, thousands of immigrants seeking asylum arrive at the U.S. border, fleeing war, poverty, violence, and discrimination. As more and more of the general public begins to pay attention to the treatment of immigrants at the border, the question arises: What happens to immigrants in detention? Are their basic needs met? Here’s what you should know about how detention impacts health and how you can help:

Sufficient health care is not always provided.

A recent Human Rights Watch report uncovered “subpar and dangerous practices” that constitute “systemic deficits in immigration detention facility health care.” Attorneys advocating for these families are corroborating these findings, reporting that immigrants with urgent health needs are not receiving sufficient care. Without proper attention, these individuals can face worsening health and even death in the most serious cases.

While detention centers may appear pleasant, detainees react like they’re in jail.

Constant surveillance, no freedom to schedule their lives or to leave, separation from loved ones – these are the basics of detention, no matter the setting. As a result, detention triggers toxic stress with significant, long-term health implications, including depression. This compounds the trauma immigrants already harbor from their home country and their often long and dangerous migration.

Immigrants released on humanitarian parole do not receive support to get the urgent care they need.

Shockingly, immigrants who are released from detention with serious health concerns are left on their own to find the services they need. These are individuals and families without medical insurance, without knowledge of the medical system in the United States, and even without any form of transportation. As a result, it is hardly surprising that many are unable to access much needed care.

What You Can Do

Immigrants who are struggling with the stresses of detention need coordinated, holistic support and advocacy in order to access clinicians and care. That is where Medical Review for Immigrants (MRI) steps in. MRI links immigrants’ attorneys with the doctors who can secure humanitarian parole for those with urgent health needs. MRI also provides in-depth case management, so that patients can find a doctor when they are released.

MRI is a new program created by Migrant Clinicians Network, which has over 30 years of experience providing technical assistance, networking, support services, case management, and training for migrant clinicians. To learn more about the conditions detained immigrants face and how you can support MRI’s efforts to provide crucial services, visit the organization’s #Salud4All campaign on HIPGive.

All people – including immigrants in detention – deserve access to health care when they need it.