US and International Migration Policy Must Prioritize Health Care Access
Two weeks ago, 53 people lost their lives to excessive and grueling heat exposure when their smuggler abandoned the semitruck in which they were traveling in the heat in San Antonio. This unspeakable tragedy has been repeated in various forms dozens of times along the US border in recent years, where reckless policy and dehumanizing political rhetoric have pushed people to risk their lives in the absence of safe options to migrate. Some political efforts to reduce the dangers of migration are afoot, but elevated efforts to address the health aspects of migration – including efforts to ensure that such terrible losses of life never occur again -- are still urgently needed.
In June, President Biden and leaders across the Western Hemisphere released the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection. The declaration was released as part of the Summit of the Americas, where leaders from North, Central, and South America sought to find common ground and action on migration in the Americas. Four pillars of action are spelled out in the declaration, regarding: 1) stability and assistance for communities; 2) legal pathways and protection; 3) humane border management; and 4) coordinated emergency response. Countries declared new initiatives to make progress within each pillar.
Migrant Clinicians Network praises multilateral efforts to support migrants across the Western Hemisphere. Political instability, violence and oppression, climate change-intensified weather events, deep poverty, and more continue to force record numbers of people from their homes and homelands in search of safety and stability, and into danger and, sometimes, to death.
Countries must act urgently to ensure the basic safety and health of migrants are ensured as they travel – and health care access must be a priority. During migration and upon arrival in the receiving community, migrants are particularly vulnerable, and most struggle to get basic care, even when it’s desperately needed. At MCN, we serve thousands of pregnant asylum seekers and children with special health care needs, many of whom have traveled thousands of miles while needing care. Through our virtual case management program Health Network, we connect with pregnant asylum seekers who have been released into the US to find them prenatal care at their next destination – a task that is very difficult for those who are far into their pregnancy. Through the Specialty Care Access Network, we help asylum-seeking children who have been released into the US to find specialty care, which is often inaccessible and expensive, but urgent. Through these efforts, we save lives. And without MCN’s efforts, many of these migrants would be unable to get the care they need.
As countries develop new and essential undertakings to build stability, legal pathways, and safe border crossing policies for migrants, access to high-quality, culturally appropriate care must be placed at the center of new efforts. Basic health needs can become emergencies when care is inaccessible – MCN has seen that for itself. Migration is a human right, and efforts must be made to ensure migrants can exercise that right safely. Dedicated, intentional, funded international efforts to provide avenues for quality care throughout the process of migration are needed to complement and strengthen these important new efforts.
Learn more about Health Network's efforts at the US-Mexico border.
Health Babies, Children, and Mothers: https://www.migrantclinician.org/healthy-babies-children-and-mothers
Specialty Care Access Network serves asylum seeking children with Support Health Network's critical work: https://www.migrantclinician.org/donate
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