Immigration reform is present on most national political agendas. The rising population of Hispanic-Americans and other ethnicities and races relocating to the United States has an impact on political elections. President Obama’s decisive 2012 victory prompted elected officials on both sides of the aisle to focus on immigration policies.
However, as the Gang of Eight establishes difficult paths to citizenship, migrant women’s reproductive healthcare is not being addressed as it relates to the importance of effective, fair immigration policies. The Latina Institute published a policy analysis finding “the majority of undocumented immigrant women do not have access to affordable health insurance,” and “immigrant women are less likely to receive adequate reproductive health care, including cervical and breast cancer screening and treatment, family planning services, HIV/AIDS testing and treatment, accurate sex education and culturally and linguistically competent services.”
Migrant women often have to wait five years to receive Medicaid, even when they have a green card according to the Latina Institute. This has led to intense and dangerous alternatives. One woman told– that she swam across the Rio Grande to access healthcare.
“Immigrant women in Texas tell us that accessing birth control, cervical cancer screenings, and other reproductive care is so difficult here in the United States, they’re forced to cross into Mexico in order to get the care they need,” Kimberly Inez McGuire, Associate Director of Government Relations and Public Affair at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health told Dissent. “One woman told us about how she literally swam across the Rio Grande to get access to reproductive care.”
Dissent magazine published an excellent article surveying how current immigration policies impact migrant women’s ability to receive adequate healthcare. Some Americans insist immigrants are absorbing our resources, but this isn’t fully-accurate.
At a time when more American women are asking why they “can’t have it all,” immigrant women endure a much crueler work-life balance: mostly poor, often without papers, and largely Latina, they’re exposed daily to chronic poverty, the threat of deportation, and sexual trauma. The struggle is inscribed on their bodies and reproductive destinies.
Under federal law, immigrants, including many green-card holders, face various bans and exclusions from federal health programs. For issues of sexual and reproductive health, immigrant women often find themselves doubly excluded from a health care infrastructure that degrades all poor women, unable to access or afford contraceptive and abortion services, prenatal care, or treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. Sexual violence or coercion by employers, inhumane conditions at detention centers, and a lack of legal recourse against abusers plague women with a precarious legal status. The dignity of reproductive sovereignty is a privilege that the low-wage economy forecloses for millions of immigrant women.
Though the Affordable Care Act can assist immigrant women in theory, it won’t be much help in praxis.
Kinsey Hasstedt, public policy associate with Guttmacher Institute, told Dissent the healthcare reforms are “a largely missed opportunity to put right much of what has gone wrong with immigrants’ access to affordable health insurance.” The expanded benefits afforded in the ACA are “disproportionately inaccessible to immigrants.”
Migrant women are rendered invisible and neglected in the overall immigration debate. Their struggle should be that of all women invested in equality.