Avoiding the Public Health Consequences of Anti-Immigrant Racism

  • Date: Jan 01 1982
  • Policy Number: 8223

Key Words: Racism, Immigration

The American Public Health Association,

Having expressed its opposition to racism on numerous occasions;1-3 and

Recognizing that some immigrants to this country increasingly are subjected to severe economic and social pressures, including:

  1. Access, for many undocumented workers, only to low-paying employment under frequently unhealthy conditions;4
  2. Sudden and forcible deportation by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), with possible arrest, torture, or execution upon return to the country of origin;5,6
  3. Potential exclusion from public educational and medical services;7,8
  4. Mass media portrayal of undocumented immigrants as a major source of unemployment and service cutbacks;9,10
  5. Forcible confinement of immigrants (especially Haitians, Salvadorans, and other Central Americans) to compounds in New York, Florida, and elsewhere, not unlike those housing persons of Japanese descent during World War II.11,12 Public Health problems in these camps have included hepatitis, venereal disease, tuberculosis (with a high prevalence of drug-resistant strains),13 spontaneous abortions,14 and a recent increase in suicide attempts.15 Observers of conditions in these camps have reported substandard medical care;12 and
  6. Proposal of special legislation (the Immigration Reform and Control Act) which would sharply curtail the civil rights of immigrants;16 and,Further acknowledging that many undocumented immigrants come to the United States as a result of political persecution and socioeconomic deprivation (including inadequate public health conditions) in their countries of origin;11,17 andAcknowledging, further, that the United States government provides support to the authoritarian governments in many of these countries of origin (such as the Duvalier regime in Haiti) and that United States multinational firms have extensive investments in these countries;18 therefore
  1. Reaffirms its opposition to all forms of racism, including that directed toward undocumented immigrants;
  2. Supports the provision of adequate medical services to undocumented immigrants; and
  3. Urges the immediate release of all undocumented immigrants unjustly detained.


  1. APHA Policy Statement 5514, Racial Integration in Health Facilities. APHA Public Policy Statements, 1948 to present, cumulative. Washington, DC: APHA, current volume.
  2. APHA Policy Statement 6501, Compliance with Civil Rights Act. APHA Public Policy Statements, 1948 to present, cumulative. Washington, DC: APHA, current volume.
  3. APHA Policy Statement 7424, Racism in the Health Care Delivery System. APHA Public Policy Statements, 1948 to present, cumulative. Washington, DC: APHA, current volume.
  4. Anon: The economic consequences of a new wave. Business Week, June 23, 1980, p 80.
  5. Roundups of aliens meeting problems. New York Times, April 30, 1982, p A10.
  6. Sullivan R: Aliens seized by US reported back at work. New York Times, May 4, 1982, p A1.
  7. Stevens WK: Education of illegal aliens at issue in Texas. New York Times, March 14, 1980, p A18.
  8. Blum H: Illegal aliens cause loss of millions in aid to city. New York Times, March 19, 1979, p A1.
  9. Illegal aliens and scapegoats (editorial). Wall Street Journal, May 2, 1977, p 12.
  10. Maher J: Ripped off by aliens. New York Times, March 15, 1979, p A23.
  11. Release the Haitians (editorial). New York Times, April 19, 1982, p A20.
  12. Coplon J: I left jail to come to freedom and found myself in another jail. Village Voice, January 27, 1982, p 14.
  13. Pitchenik AE, et al: The prevalence of tuberculosis and drug resistance among Haitians. N Engl J Med 1982; 307:162-165.
  14. Mike Hooper (Lawyers Committee, New York, NY): Personal communication, July 15, 1982.
  15. Pear R: Suicide attempts reported rising among Haitians in US detention. New York Times, June 21, 1982.
  16. Provisions of the legislation would reduce access of immigrants to federal courts; have political asylum hearings handled in the INS offices, with no judicial appeal; shorten the appeal period from six months to 30 days for persons subject to deportation; and effect the internment of all seized undocumented workers into internment camps to await deportation, to be released at the discretion of the Attorney General.
  17. Berggren WL, Ewbank DC, Berggren GG: Reduction of mortality in rural Haiti through a primary health-care program. N Engl J Med 1981; 304:1324-1330.
  18. Haiti: For `Baby Doc,' a giant step to calm lenders. Business Week, May 3, 1982, p 46.
  19. McCloy JJ: (Letter). New York Times, November 11, 1981. (Mr. McCloy is former chairperson of the Council of Foreign Relations and former chief administrator for the US of the Japanese internment camps.)

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