Primarily authored by EthnoMed Director Dr. Carey Jackson, these posts explore current issues and spotlight organizations related to immigrant and refugee health care. We also occasionally feature guest authors.
By Maggie Cheng, JD, Staff Attorney (Asylum) and Malou Chávez, JD, Deputy Director, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP)
It is inevitable not to feel optimistic and yearn for long-awaited positive changes that would impact our immigrant communities. For decades, immigrant communities have been put on the back burner, and protection for the more than 11 million undocumented individuals in the U.S. has not been a priority for the country. Family separation, long waiting lists for family reunifications, limited protections for immigrant victims, children and youth with dreams in limbo, zero avenues to legal for farmworkers, the fear that at any moment a person will be arrested for lack of papers, and many more difficult situations are today’s reality.
Among the health disparities prevalent among asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants is a history of political violence in the form of imprisonment, war fare, interrogation, threats and torture. You will find that this experience is shared by Vietnamese survivors of the re-education camps, Egyptian students, gay men from Pakistan, Ethiopian shopkeepers, Angolan obstetricians, and the political opposition from Congo. In the diversity of occupation, gender and ethnicity is a shared experience of a violent suppression of democracy that plays itself out in their lives through dislocation, chronic pain and disease, sometimes for decades.
EthnoMed is a program and website within Harborview Medical Center’s Interpreter Services Department that provides information about cultural beliefs, medical issues and other topics related to the health care of immigrants and refugees. Founded in 1994 in partnership with UW Health Sciences Library, the website was developed for clinicians and health care providers working with immigrant and refugee populations in the greater Seattle area.
EthnoMed offers information about immigration, cultural norms and values, experience with Western medicine, culture specific information and tools pertinent to the clinical encounter and translated/culturally tailored information for patients. It is also an entree to “cross-cultural” practice.
Being poor can be like treading water with the waterline right under your nose. The slightest ripple and you choke, a wave will submerge you. The novel coronavirus pandemic is a tsunami for those living in poverty. As the recent New York Times article illustrates, communities living in crowded conditions, with uncontrolled chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension, marginalized by the lack of comprehensible health information, and mistrusting the current systems to treat them fairly will be disproportionately ravaged by Covid-19. We have seen this in the past with tuberculosis, HIV, and hepatitis B. But the novel coronavirus acts faster and in some cases more aggressively and so reveals disparities even more dramatically.
Migrants exist in two worlds simultaneously: one in the country of asylum and the other through their calls, connections, and visits, to the people back home. Global warming is changing both worlds; in fact it is why many have been forced to migrate.
Recently, world representatives met in Poland to coordinate efforts to address climate change, and as they acknowledge it is almost too late, many realize the stakes are far too high to trust politicians alone to handle the broad cultural changes needed to address environmental collapse from the top down.
A statement from the Northwest Immigrant and Refugee Coalition
It is critical for those of us charged with the well-being of children and families to speak out for their protection, as we have been reminded this week by the zero-tolerance policy separating and detaining families. We are a Washington State coalition of health professionals and public health practitioners; whose mission is to advocate and care for immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. The forceful separation of children from parents and the recent relocation of some of these children and parents to Washington State makes this national crisis also a local concern.