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Health and Immigration

Filed Under: Health, Immigrants

Photo by Leslie Sigala

For many of us, spending time with family during the holidays has special significance. While we celebrate, we pass down cultural traditions to each new generation, strengthen ties with elders, and remember ancestors who have passed away. Time spent together creates memories of love and warmth that sustain us throughout the year.

Unfortunately, many immigrant families cannot be together during the holidays. This, and other stressors related to their immigration status, may make the holidays difficult to bear. According to the Center for Minority Public Health, people impacted by immigration policies are disproportionally impacted by depression, PTSD, anxiety, and overall stress. Because of this, DACA individuals are more likely to suffer from physical and mental health issues. They often lose sleep, experience food insecurity, fear for their safety, and have restricted access to health care. Regular routines such as going to see the doctor or dropping kids off at school all become stressful situations.

The impacts are even harsher for undocumented immigrants. Undocumented Latinos often face financial instability and fearfulness. This leads them to engage in community activities less frequently, resulting in increased isolation. Undocumented people living with HIV are more likely to require medical support as a result of anti-immigration policies impacting access to access to adequate health care.

This past year, we saw the presence of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials in San Francisco. ICE raids and targeted operations cornered hard-working immigrant families who had committed no crimes, including many Dreamers. Despite San Francisco’s long-held support for immigrants, the City’s Sanctuary City status also came under attack. These policies place IFR and dozens of community nonprofits at odds with a divisive and mean anti-immigrant agenda.

In response, and in partnership with other agencies, IFR implemented a series of workshops to support community members impacted by these and other anti-immigration policies. Early Intervention Program partnered with PODER to offer a series of “Know your Rights” workshops to inform families of their legal rights and equip them with skills to cope with anxiety, stress, and fear. La Cultura Cura hosted an educational workshop on the impacts of trauma for parents and youth ages 12-17 to address their concerns, especially with regard to legal support and police contact. Indigena Health and Wellness Collaborative organized a month of workshops for clients focusing on trauma and coping mechanisms. Casa Corazón led the “Immigration is a Human Right” march to Civic Center in collaboration with San Francisco State University students. The program also hosted an Emergency Community Forum on Immigration Law to discuss emerging legal issues, how to support our community, and how to create a safety plan for undocumented families. Through a grant from the Metta Fund, IFR worked with organizations in the Chicano/Latino/Indígena Health Equity Coalition to address the effects of trauma in our community.

These new risks to our community have required that we all step up. As part of our response to the evolving needs of our clients, IFR staff have participated in monthly trainings on Trauma Recovery and Healing since early this year. With support from a grant from Kaiser Permanente, IFR has committed to increasing staff’s knowledge on the prevention, early identification, intervention, and impacts of trauma. Our training, known as Calmecac, focuses on understanding historical and community trauma, as well as healing interventions and recovery.

This is IFR’s task: to stand as one community, trained and ready to support our clients’ journey through immigration reform and health. We are one; in lak’ech.

 

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