This article discusses Georgia’s anti-immigrant law, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011, which targets not only undocumented persons, but also individuals who may be considered as helping an undocumented immigrant avoid detection by immigration authorities. The authors suggest that the law makes it too risky for undocumented immigrants to pursue qualified, appropriate medical care due to risk of deportation. Groups and physicians who assist in the procurement or delivery of these services are also open to potentially prosecution.
The authors suggest that state immigration laws exacerbate public health problems in undocumented immigrant populations. Anti-immigrant state laws may delay the diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections and HIV, and lead to increased rates of unintended pregnancy. These laws may also increase the number of individuals seeking care in illegal health care settings. These barriers to care negatively affect the health of not only undocumented persons but of all residents due to increased reliance on emergency care. The authors conclude that failure to further examine the effect of anti-immigrant laws on the public health will likely cause further distress.
For additional perspective on this issue, see Immigration Reform: Basic Justice, Public Health Consequences by Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, Legal Director at The Center for HIV Law and Policy, on The Fine Print Blog.