Opportunity for Health

Chilling Effects: US Immigration Enforcement And Health Care Seeking Among Hispanic Adults

Health Affairs · July 6, 2021

Aggressive deportation policy enforcement in the US may make undocumented immigrants and those close to them reluctant to seek medical care. With 68 percent of undocumented immigrants coming from Mexico or Central America, US deportation policies particularly affect Hispanic residents. To examine how deportation enforcement relates to health care use in the Hispanic population in general, we matched survey data from the 2011–16 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to measures of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) activity. Quasi-experimental analyses demonstrated that Hispanic respondents were less likely to report having had a regular provider or annual checkup following increased ICE activity in their state. In contrast, these behaviors were unchanged among non-Hispanic adults, a group less likely to be affected by deportation enforcement. Parallel results were found among Hispanic and non-Hispanic adults with diabetes, for whom lapses in care may confer significant health risks.