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Last week, President Barack Obama took a step to ease many unauthorized immigrants’ fears by directing the immigration service not to deport those who have children who are U.S. citizens and have been in the country for five or more years. While this may give undocumented immigrants relief from their fear of using health services, it does nothing to help them access those services.
According to the Pew Center, there are 11.9 million unauthorized immigrants who, because they lack permanent legal status, are excluded from benefits and rights that Americans take for granted. Because of their insecure immigration status, they are concentrated in low-wage jobs that do not provide health insurance. As a result, 59 percent of adult undocumented immigrants have no health insurance, four times the level of immigrants with a green card.
This lack of insurance is compounded by policies that affect all low-income workers, such as a lack of paid sick leave. Research shows that immigrants, including those entering without authorization, come to the U.S. primarily for work and family, not for health care benefits.
Also check out our Access to Care story in the Autumn/Winter 2014-15 FSPH Magazine: