In a survey of patients who showed up at three urban California
emergency departments, researchers found that half of Latino
citizens and legal residents as well as three quarters of
undocumented immigrants feel unsafe because of comments made by the
One quarter of undocumented immigrants said they were so frightened
they delayed going to the emergency room for days, according to the
report published in PLoS ONE.
"Statements coming from the administration and the President really
do have significant effects on Latino populations," said the study's
lead author, Dr. Robert Rodriguez, a professor of emergency medicine
at the University of California, San Francisco, and a physician at
San Francisco General Hospital. "Not only have they induced fear in
undocumented immigrants, but they have also caused a substantial
proportion of Latino citizens to have concerns about their safety."
For those who say they'd rather not have undocumented immigrants
receiving care at the nation's ERs, Rodriguez points to the downside
for all Americans when those who are ill do not get care in a timely
"Even if you don't believe undocumented immigrants should have
healthcare in this country, you have to consider public health as a
whole," he said. "An immigrant who delays or doesn't come to the
emergency department and has some infectious disease is going to
compromise public health in the community."
To get a sense of whether the administration's anti-immigrant
rhetoric might be creating a barrier to healthcare access among
Latinos, Rodriguez and his colleagues developed a survey to be given
to patients coming into the emergency departments of large hospitals
in three California cities: Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco.
Between June 2017 and December 2018, researchers approached 1,684
emergency department patients, 1,337 of whom agreed to participate
in anonymous surveys: 34.3% were undocumented Latino immigrants,
36.9% were Latino legal residents or citizens and 29.8% were
non-Latino residents or citizens.
The vast majority of surveyed patients had heard administration
statements about measures against undocumented immigrants during the
presidential campaign or from President Trump: 95% of undocumented
Latino immigrants, 94% of Latinos who were legal residents or
citizens and 87% of the non-Latino residents and citizens.
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Most of the undocumented immigrants, 89%, thought these measures
were being enacted now or would be in the future, as did 88% of the
Latino legal residents and citizens and 87% of non-Latino legal
residents and citizens.
Most of the undocumented immigrants, 75%, and more than half of the
Latino legal residents and citizens, 51%, said the statements made
them feel unsafe living in the U.S.
More undocumented immigrants, 24% - compared with 4.4% of Latino
legal residents - said the statements made them afraid to come to
the emergency room. And that fear, they said, caused them to delay
coming to the ER for a median of two to three days.
Rodriguez points out that these numbers are from Latinos who live in
California cities, "all of which are sanctuary-type cities. If
there's that level of fear arising from this rhetoric in those
cities, we believe the fear level in other places is likely to be a
The new study shows the power words can have, said Dr. Albert Wu, an
internist and a professor of health policy and management at the
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore,
"Words can be dangerous and they can even kill when they create
barriers to healthcare access," Wu said. "This kind of rhetoric can
have a powerful chilling effect that prevents Latino patients from
taking advantage of necessary care."
While some people may think it's a good idea to deny healthcare to
people who are here illegally, scaring people so much that they
delay care could result in higher healthcare costs because the
patients are much sicker when they finally do end up in the
emergency room, Wu said.
Consider that "there are 58 million legal residents and citizens in
the U.S. with Latino heritage, with a subset who may have
undocumented members of their households," Wu said. "So the
potential effects of this kind of rhetoric could be a lot bigger
than you would expect."
SOURCE: https://bit.ly/328ET2G PLoS ONE, online October 30, 2019.
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