MCN Position Statement: Florida’s Stop WOKE Act May Lead to Unnecessary Deaths and Suffering
As health justice advocates, we at Migrant Clinicians Network are strongly opposed to Florida’s new Stop WOKE Act. This new law, which goes into effect on July 1, 2023, is the most anti-immigrant state law in the country. Among its many draconian components, hospitals that accept Medicaid will be required to ask patients about their citizenship status, which discourages people who have urgent health needs from accessing care, out of fear of exposing their immigration status. Additionally, those who transport someone without authorization – including to the hospital – will be penalized.
For decades, Migrant Clinicians Network has worked with thousands of clinical constituents, community health organizations, community groups and research partners in Florida. We have connected hundreds of asylum seekers, migrants, and farmworkers in Florida with care both within the state and as they move to and from the state, through our virtual case management system, Health Network.
This new law endangers the lives of migrants, immigrants, and asylum seekers. It may have a chilling effect beyond those directly affected by the policy, as family members of those without authorization to work in the US may also avoid care.
“Laws like the Stop WOKE Act create a culture of mistrust of the medical community that is dangerous and difficult to reverse,” noted Kim Nolte, MPH, MCHES, Chief Executive Officer for Migrant Clinicians Network. “The result of such a culture is the avoidance of health care, even when it’s desperately needed. This will lead to unnecessary deaths and suffering, that can have a cataclysmic effect on a family.”
Laszlo Madaras, MD, MPH, Chief Medical Officer for MCN stated further: “The medical community’s role is to provide optimal health care, not be the police for immigration. Physicians take an oath to do no harm, and this new law will create an atmosphere in which patients would less likely be forthcoming to their doctors or avoid their health care providers altogether.”
The policy may precipitate a state-defined class of sicker residents. Those who will not access care even when needed will get sicker. Those who are able to migrate to avoid the rule will do so, receiving the care they need to improve their health.
The presumption behind the law, that immigrants without authorization to live and work in the US create a drain on the health system, is untrue; this immigrant group overall pays more into the health system than it takes. Further, restricting access to care leads people to delay their care, which in turn leads to complications, increases the risk for morbidity and mortality, and costs more for the community and the individual.
This new hospital rule is just one of many provisions within the law that are concerning and anti-immigrant, which has led organizations like LULAC, NAACP, and Equality Florida to issue travel warnings for the state of Florida. We oppose the law in its entirety and encourage Florida lawmakers to return to valuing the basic human rights of immigrants, regardless of immigration status.
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