Last week while riding the metro to Downtown Minneapolis I saw a Somalian woman enter the train pushing a stroller with her young infant. While walking to a seat the wheel of her stroller hit against the shoe of another passenger followed by a loud shout, “Hey woman watch your damn wretched shit”. The lady whispered several apologizes before embarrassingly sitting down opposite the woman who continued to holler expletives under her breath.
I watched in shocked as an elderly Somalian man walked towards the lady and covered the roof of the stroller with a blanket. I came off the next stop and walked towards The Plaza in downtown Minneapolis.
In the DMV office Somalians scurried back and fort from the counters to the lobby area speaking in their native language while filling out tax and permit forms. My attention was drawn by a very rude clerk that broke the silence of the beeping monitor requesting number C15. “lady you failed the test you only got twenty three right, move out of the line”. The woman seemed both embarrassed and confused as all eyes were fixed on her from the outcome of her permit test. She collected her identification card and walked slowly towards the exit.
As she neared the door someone called out to her, ” isku day inaad mar mar soo socda walaashay”. She smiled and walked towards the stairway.
The Somalian community faces many inequalities and remains an isolated group throughout the capital and its outskirts. Howard Waitzkin highlights C Wright Mill’s quote that the troubles a person experiences arise in the context of broader social problems.
“By portraying immigrants as different, the public tends to fear them, and as a result, immigrants live in fear that they will be deported because they are too different”
Hacker et al in “The impact of immigration and customs enforcement on immigrant health: perceptions of immigrants in Everett, Massachusetts, USA.” found that immigration policies, and enforcement, has increased immigrants’ fear of profiling and deportation. This increase of fear has had a negative impact on immigrants’ health. The article reveals that “immigrants’ experience of stigmatization translates to stress, isolation, and marginalization which leads to depression, and anxiety, lack of personal empowerment, and many other health problems.
Threatening to deport billions of these documented immigrants has highlighted multiple dimensions of racism, specifically the relationship between individually mediated racism and health. Racism reliably produces and reproduces social and economic inequities along racial and ethnic lines in the United States. There is a link between race and the treatment of immigrants. These fears breeds disparities as there is a relationship between deportation and emotional wellbeing.
Disparities in Health Care
In Sontag, D. (2008). “Immigrants Facing Deportation by U.S. Hospitals.” The quote that resonated with me the most was in Sontag, D. Immigrants facing deportation by U.S.. hospitals, where the mother of Luis said, “Every time, he loses a little more of himself”. US hospitals are repatriating seriously injured or ill immigrants due to high medical expenses since many of them are without insurance. Since Medicaid does not cover long-term care for illegal immigrants nor for recent legal immigrants. As such, hospitals are under obligation by federal regulation to arrange post-hospital care for patients who need it. As such they have to find the means to provide them with care.
According to Dr Steven Larson, “Repatriation is pretty much a death sentence in some of these cases, I’ve seen patients bundled onto the plane and out of the country, and once that person is out of sight, he’s out of mind.”
In Viruell-Fuentes et al. More than culture: structural racism, intersectionality theory, and immigrant health we see how the use of invariable definitions of culture in public health research risks accommodates racial/ethnic stereotypes. Disparities in health care in forms of oppression and marginalization influences the health of many immigrants. Scholars highlight how everyday experiences of racism or unfair treatment impact health . For Latino, Asian, and Black immigrant groups, “becoming American” involves contending with ideologies that render them racial “minorities” and the stigmatized meanings that the racialized society ascribes to their specific group. Some groups assume a racial formation to be perceived as white.
The article further stated that U.S. born minority group members, compared to immigrants, experience higher levels of perceived discrimination and a stronger association between discrimination and health. As such, Latino, Asian, and Black immigrant groups, “becoming American” involves contending with ideologies that render them racial “minorities” and the stigmatized meanings that the radicalized society ascribes to their specific group. They are branded by their race even though they are “by the books” Americans. This is referred to as “therapeutic panacea,” where immigrants are seen as equally threatening as their legal counterparts due to their socioeconomic status and race.