Advocating for Immigrant Families

A debriefing of Tuesday's event and resources
Home / News / Advocating for Immigrant Families
Originally posted on October 5, 2017

By Greer Cohen, Program Assistant

On Tuesday, October 3rd, local experts joined Maternity Care Coalition (MCC) at our Fall Policy Forum to address the ever-so-timely question: how can we best advocate for the health of immigrant women, children and families?
The answer, as MCC Senior Director of Policy, Rosemarie Halt reminded us, “is not a simple picture.”

A tumultuous political climate and complex public benefits landscape add to the already expansive list of barriers obstructing access to care for immigrant families. Few are eligible for and aware of publicly funded medical assistance, while many who are remain hesitant to utilize public benefits in fear that disclosing personal information will increase their risk of deportation. Meanwhile limited access to translation services, transportation, employment and education persist, hindering the ability to understand and use the medical system. Dr. Jack Ludmir, MD, Senior Vice President for Physician Engagement and Integration and Associate Provost for Community and Global Initiatives at Thomas Jefferson University, reported seeing an alarming number of immigrant women arriving to give birth without having received any prenatal care.

Still, we are not dissuaded. Federally Qualified Health Centers accept patients regardless of their ability to pay, and innovative non-profit health and wellness organizations such as Puentas de Salud strive to serve the growing immigrant population. Many legal organizations such as Community Legal Services offer immigrant families tools to prepare for the threat of ICE and work on a path to citizenship. While non-profits such as ACLAMO Family Centers provide educational programs, social services which empower clients to succeed and become productive members of society.

According to Dr. Julia DeJoseph, Senior Director of Population Health at Delaware Valley Community Health, “A parent’s mental and physical health will affect a child and vice versa.” Fortunately support from organizations like Maternity Care Coalition, is available for pregnant and parenting families, with evidenced based home visiting programs such as Healthy Families America and Early Head Start. However, these programs only reach 5 percent of the eligible families in the Philadelphia region.

How can we continue efforts to provide comprehensive care for our most vulnerable women, children and families? An adequate policy response, as panelists repeatedly urged, comes down to increasing awareness, access and advocacy. To start, organizations and campaigns can assist families in understanding the complex medical system. Ultimately, placing pressure on legislators to protect immigrant families is imperative. Serving these families is our “moral and ethical obligation,” Dr. Ludmir explained. “Prenatal care should be a universal right.”

MCC is committed to advocating for immigrant mothers, children and families—but we cannot fight alone. Today, we ask the MCC community to join in our efforts by making a donation. In the words of Nelly Jimenez-Arevalo, Executive Director & CEO of ACLAMO, “Immigrants are hard workers and committed to their children and their families. Together we can support them to make sure that they also have a real opportunity to the American Dream.”


Resources from the Forum

Slides from today’s event:
2017 Fall Policy Forum Presenter’s Power Point Presentations

Documents explaining the challenges and proposed solutions for ‘Dreamers’ (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals):
Dream Act 2017 Summary and Facts
FAQ on DACA Termination

A document explaining Immigrant Rights to access Public Benefits in Pennsylvania:
CLS Immigrant Rights to Public Benefits in Pennsylvania

Where immigrants can get access to Legal Services in the greater Philadelphia area:
Greater Philadelphia organizations providing free or low cost immigration services

Know Your Rights and Addressing Fears
– English and Spanish versions: Know Your Rights at Home and at Work
– Clarification from ICE on how an immigrant’s information can be used in applying for health insurance in the ACA/healthcare marketplace. The individual’s health information can only be used to determine eligibility for insurance through, NOT for any enforcement activities.
– An Informational Guide for Immigrant Families on Planning for Custody and Care of Children

Services for immigrants documented and undocumented that includes Head Start (ASTHO)
Health Services for Immigrant and Undocumented Individuals

Links to agencies our speakers represented:
ACLAMO: Accion Comunal Latinoamericana de Montgomery County
Community Legal Services of Philadelphia
Puentes De Salud
Maria De Los Santos Health Center

Link to the HBO documentary with Dr. Ludmir:
Clinica De Migrantes: Health Without Borders

Link to local agency providing legal services for immigrants: HIAS

Articles on recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids in Philadelphia:
In Nation Wide Immigration Sweep ICE Arrests 107 in Philly
Multiple Philadelphia Organizations Say Latest ICE Raid Was Made to “Put Immigrants in Their Place”


Consider making a donation to MCC to ensure that we can continue these critical conversations

The JoAnne Fischer Fund for Advocacy honors JoAnne’s passion and ongoing commitment to advocating for families locally, nationally, and globally, as she steps down from her long tenure as Executive Director. The Fund will support MCC’s critical efforts to learn from our families’ experiences, conduct research to improve services, shape policy that will positively impact the community, and further MCC’s work of strengthening families and inspiring change.

Contribute Today!