Latina health advocates urge Congress, White House to advance health in immigration reform

The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) joined other leaders in immigrants’ rights and health equity to send a letter to President Obama and members of Congress urging that programs and public services that meet basic human needs be included in immigration reform, including programs that improve access to affordable health care. The letter was endorsed by over 360 national, state, and local groups. Jessica González-Rojas, executive eirector of NLIRH issued the following statement:

“All people, including Latinas and immigrant Latinas, deserve access to affordable, quality, and comprehensive health care, including reproductive health care. Federal policies restricting immigrant Latinas’ access to health care have enacted a high human toll –  by contributing to widened reproductive health disparities –  and have defied sound public health policies. These policies have also enacted a high financial cost, by limiting access to vital preventive reproductive and sexual health care, including cervical cancer screenings, contraception, and prenatal care. Immigrant women and families are the backbones of their communities, contribute to their schools, churches, and local economies, and make our nation stronger. We look forward to working with policymakers to find commonsense solutions that keep our families healthy and our communities strong.”


Immigrant Latinas face additional barriers to health insurance and health care, due to lack of culturally- and linguistically-competent health services, poverty, and other factors. Yet, one of the most significant barriers to health care for immigrant Latinas is lack of access to health insurance because of immigration status. Despite high labor force participation and employment rates, and their contributions to our economy as entrepreneurs, only 34% of immigrant Latinas have access to employer-sponsored coverage.  Additionally, lower wages put private health insurance out of reach for many immigrant Latinas. In contradiction with sound public health policy, federal policies exclude immigrant Latinas from public health insurance and services, including Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and Medicare. Due to these factors, 45% of immigrant Latinas, and 55% of non-citizen immigrant Latinas live without health insurance.  

Despite advances for immigrant health through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), federal restrictions on immigrant’s access to health care were not addressed by the law and immigrants were restricted or excluded from new and expanded coverage options, including the expanded Medicaid program, full price plans offered on the new health insurance exchanges, and premium tax credits and subsidies to help afford plans on the exchanges.

A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation demonstrated that there is high public support for advancing immigrant equity in health through immigration reform. According to the survey, 63% of people believed that immigrants currently without status who will obtain provisional status through immigration reform should be eligible for Medicaid coverage, meeting the program’s other income requirements. And 59% believed immigrants with provisional status should be eligible for federal assistance to purchase a health plan if they do not have access to health insurance through their employer. Support for both proposals was higher among Black and Latino respondents. The study also found that many people underestimate the extent to which immigrants are excluded from affordable and quality health care options.

NLIRH is committed to improving health care access and outcomes for the communities we represent. NLIRH advocates for federal policies to expand access to affordable and culturally and linguistically competent care for all Latinas, including immigrant Latinas.


The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health is the only national organization working on behalf of the reproductive health and justice for the 24 million Latinas, their families and communities in the United States through public education, community mobilization, and policy advocacy.

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