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Center for Public Health and Human Rights

Migrant Health and Human Rights

Globalization, climate change, violence, discrimination, and poverty are driving millions of people away from their homes and shaping the modern world. In this context, migration is increasingly conceptualized as a public health issue. Growing xenophobia, anti-immigrant policies, and the politicization of migration and the international system for the protection of refugees has further eroded basic human rights protections. Undocumented immigrants (and others with tenuous legal residency status) and their families represent a particularly vulnerable population whose health and human dignity have been consistently challenged by immigration integration policies and enforcement activities.

The Program on Migrant Health and Human Rights brings together experts in public health methods, health services research, health policy, advocacy, and clinical care to advance research and advocacy through the lens of human rights, and to develop pragmatic solutions that can make a difference. This includes advancing and influencing the conversation regarding the “right to health” among those excluded from healthcare and social services based upon immigration status.

We seek to inform immigration and integration policies in the US and abroad through rigorous science and cutting-edge research. The program focuses on four main areas of research. First, using quantitative and qualitative approaches, we investigate the adverse health-related consequences of hostile immigration policies, detention, and immigration enforcement on health outcomes, both within and beyond our country’s borders. This includes direct impact on health, as well as indirect impact of the “chilling effect” on healthcare and social service access and utilization. Second, we develop tools to reach “hidden” immigrant populations and assess their physical and mental health wellbeing. Third, we study the spillover effect of immigration and integration policies on children of immigrants, and other citizens and legal permanent residents in mixed-status families. Fourth, we develop models and interventions to expand access to healthcare for immigrants, with a focus on those who are systematically excluded from services.

Our team has projects related to the Venezuelan migrant crisis and at the US-Mexico southern border. Within the US, the team has several projects on the health and human rights of undocumented migrants as well as asylum seekers, focused on topics ranging from HIV, interpersonal violence, COVID-19, mental health, and access to healthcare and social services.