New York City

OPINION: Trump administration is stripping health care rights from NY immigrants

September 12, 2019 Pascale Bernard and Leeann Rizk

Undocumented, legal and native New Yorkers of Caribbean and African descent are pinned between a rock and a hard place. The rock is shaped in the form of racism, xenophobia and ICE. The hard place is the complex health care system under constant threat by politicians. Racist rhetoric and anti-immigrant policies from the Trump administration have contributed to a culture of fear in Caribbean and African communities, and are keeping far too many people from seeking the health care they need and deserve.

On the heels of ICE raids that have torn families apart, the Trump administration’s Department of Homeland Security has released a new harmful policy designed to separate families and to dissuade immigrants from accessing health care and meeting other basic needs. Trump’s new “public charge” rule expands the government’s ability to deny people visas, green cards and entry into the US, simply because they received public benefits.

Legal immigrants are legally eligible for public benefits — including health care, nutrition assistance, and housing assistance. This unethical rule aims to punish people who are simply taking care of their health, feeding their families, and putting a roof over their heads. Planned Parenthood of New York City is already seeing the harmful impact it’s having on our patients. Patients are refusing much-needed medical care out of fear of deportation. Mothers are waiving their right to emergency Medicaid because showing ID could mean never seeing their children again, children who are American-born citizens. Working-class immigrants contribute to the cultural fabric of our city and our national economy. No one should be punished for meeting their basic needs and caring for their families. That is simply inhumane.

The Trump administration is also targeting immigrant and low-income communities by stripping them of free and low-cost health care. Title X is the only federally funded program dedicated to family planning and prevention. Title X helps people who struggle to make ends meet get birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and STI testing and treatment. The administration is now enforcing a “gag rule” that makes health care providers, like Planned Parenthood of New York City, ineligible for Title X funding. Trump’s weaponizing of Title X is detrimental to women, immigrant communities, LGBTQ+ individuals, and those with low incomes.  In many neighborhoods, Planned Parenthood is the only provider of affordable reproductive health care, or the only provider that offers specialized care like an IUD or birth control pills.

People from Caribbean and African countries encounter the same hateful anti-immigrant barriers our brothers and sisters endure when traveling from Central and Latin America. The Title X gag rule and the public charge rule are dangerous tools designed to oppress those people — our people, our patients.

Rest assured, Planned Parenthood of New York City health centers will always be a safe space for all patients, regardless of immigration status or ability to pay. Your health, safety, and privacy are our top priorities. PPNYC’s well-trained staff members are here to provide confidential, quality sexual and reproductive care to our patients as we always have, without interruption. Living in a secure and healthy environment alongside your family is part of living a happy, complete life.

Pascale Bernard is the vice president of public affairs at Planned Parenthood of New York City.

Leeann Rizk is the associate director of community organizing at Planned Parenthood of New York City.

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