ICE RAIDS ARE DETRIMENTAL TO COMMUNITY HEALTH
STATEMENT FROM WASHINGTON DC REGION COMMUNITY-BASED HEALTH AND MENTAL HEALTH CENTERS, HEALTH SECTOR ORGANIZATIONS AND WORKGROUPS

January 2016

The Obama administration has confirmed that it is conducting immigration raids in the homes of mothers and children from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras who entered the U.S. since May of 2014 and have received orders of deportation. These announcements and actions have caused extreme fear in our immigrant patient populations, and we are already receiving reports on patients who are afraid to come in for services. As health clinics, centers, and organizations devoted to caring for those most underserved in our community, we are deeply troubled by the trauma generated within our communities by these ICE raids, and we join the call for our local leaders to affirm that our localities are safe spaces for immigrants and those fleeing violence.

Our local region has a high proportion of immigrants from Central America, who therefore make up significant segments of our patients and clients. It has been well documented that many of the families recently arriving to our region are fleeing severe and growing violence in Central America. The manner in which ICE officers are conducting raids are re-traumatizing mothers and children who have witnessed and survived arrest, torture, and murder of family members, and attempts on their own lives. Those of us working closely with these families know that a significant number are experiencing severe symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression. These and other trauma-related conditions can limit major life activities, including the capacity to successfully navigate complicated asylum legal procedures and immigration removal proceedings. There are concerns that many of those with orders of deportation did not receive full due process in court, and deporting them to situations of extreme violence will result in harm or even death.

Raids don’t harm only those with orders of deportation, they create an environment of fear among the entire immigrant community. Many of our immigrant patients and clients have histories of trauma and persecution, and the news reports of predawn raids by ICE in homes, workplaces and in local supermarkets heighten feelings of vulnerability and distrust. Immigrant and refugee families live difficult lives as they adjust to new communities and new cultures. Immigration status is one of the key social determinants affecting health, along with poverty, language, and the lack of familiarity with the US health system. It is fundamental to provide safe spaces for immigrants and refugees as they seek supportive services, and to identify opportunities for improving the trust that they need to have in our institutions so they can fully develop their potential to be healthy and productive. Raids have the opposite effect, deterring immigrants from sending children to school, showing up for clinic appointments or even buying healthy foods, and therefore widening the existing disparities in care.

Our health sector has increasingly embraced a commitment to health equity and health for all. As part of that commitment, we affirm that our health centers and organizations are safe spaces for all, including immigrants and those fleeing violence. We urge our immigrant community to continue seeking services and support from us. We urge our local jurisdictions to work with our immigrant community to assure them of the safety of our schools, public services, and local law enforcement. We urge our federal representatives to work towards comprehensive immigration reform that addresses the root causes of migration, and acknowledges the specific health and mental health needs of those fleeing violence.

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