The Worst of Health: Law and Policy at the Intersection of Health and Immigration

Wendy E. Parmet
Date of Publication: 
July, 2019
Source Organization: 

Due to the influence of nativist forces, the United States has had a long history of misguided health policy and law. This essay reflects on past and present immigration, healthcare and public health policies and shows how they are connected to and impact each other. Parmet cites various cases of immigration policy that had a harmful effect on public health, from the quarantine of Chinese-Americans in San Francisco during a 1900 epidemic to the recent Trump administration family separation policies. Parmet utilizes these historical case examples to illustrate the damaging conflation of immigration and health policy and the extent to which these federal policies are fueled by anti-immigrant and racist sentiment. She stresses that these policies are not only exclusionist, they are ineffective, costly and dangerous to public health. The author also strongly opposes the Trump administration’s regulation to expand the meaning of “public charge,” which, she points out, was used to turn away Jewish refugees during the Holocaust. The article recommends that policymakers rethink the ethical foundations at the intersection of immigration and public health law. (Olivia Pickard for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

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Parmet, W. (2019). The Worst of Health: Law and Policy at the Intersection of Health and Immigration. Indiana Health Law Review, 16(2), 211-233.