179364 Public health nursing and undocumented immigrant populations: Reinforcing “illegal” borders

Monday, October 27, 2008: 9:00 AM

Mary K. Canales, PhD , Grants Department, Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, Bemidji, MN

Concern for the health and welfare of populations drives the work of public health, including public health nursing (PHN). Historically, Whites have constituted the largest populations in the U. S.; projections of population growth in the next decade however, predict a dramatic shift in U. S. racial/ethnic make-up. What happens when racial and ethnic groups, previously in the minority, comprise the majority of the population? How have public health nurses positioned themselves to meet the needs of a diverse population, particularly the needs of undocumented immigrants—a group surrounded by local, regional, and national dispute and debate?

The goal of health equity, embodied in this year's annual meeting theme, “Public Health without Borders,” mandates a commitment to justice and systematic assessment of health determinants. Active elements such as racism, poverty, environmental exposures, distribution of wealth, and social class play integral roles in influencing health equity. Equally important are politics and policies, including the guidelines and position statements emanating from health services/professional organizations. An organization's silence on the care of vulnerable populations, particularly undocumented immigrants, amplifies the invisibility of these populations in U. S. society and reinforces the inequity of healthcare in the United States.


In this presentation, an overview of the scientific literature with respect to health and health care for undocumented immigrants is offered, with an emphasis on PHN. A summary of existing policies and position statements from national health professional organizations, including those representing PHN are also examined.


Not applicable


This review provides an examination of the current state of the science in regards to the health of undocumented immigrants and sheds light on how this population continues to remain invisible despite the very visible rhetoric their presence engenders in local, regional, and national politics. Public health nurses need to understand the health circumstances of undocumented immigrants in order to advocate on their behalf.

Learning Objectives:
By the end of the session, participants will be able to identify the key findings of the public health literature related to undocumented immigrants; prompted to review their own organization’s policy in regard to undocumented immigrants; able to discuss the significance of the absence of specific health equity articulation of health care issues for undocumented immigrants. able to describe and recommend to PHN and other nursing organizations the ethical mandate to create policy statements and position papers on issues of immigrant health equity.

Keywords: Access Immigration, Policy/Policy Development

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the primary author of the abstract and will be the primary author of the paper if accepted for presentation. I do not have any financial relationships with any entities related to the content of the abstract/accepted paper
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.