Historically, the US immigration system (ie, institutions, agencies, and laws) has served the goals and principles of white supremacy through its treatment of globally displaced people and this appears to have continued through the COVID pandemic. Yet, the implications for immigrant health are not routinely addressed in mainstream public health discourse, and especially so in regard to public health disasters. This study conducted a series of focus groups with participants from social justice organizations working with immigrants, migrants, undocumented persons, refugees, persons seeking asylum, and persons detained in immigration jails to collect stories on how the immigration system undermined efforts to control the spread of COVID-19 and exacerbated health inequity within immigrant jails and across related community contexts during the pandemic. Focus groups were conducted to explore issues related to immigrants and immigration detention during the COVID-19 pandemic. There was a total of N=14 participants across the 4 focus groups with a dedicated focus group on perspectives of Black immigrants/from Black immigrant organizations only. Each focus group consisted of 3 to 4 participants. Five key themes emerged: 1) dehumanization of immigrants and migrants and devaluation of their lives; 2) inhumane conditions of confinement that propagate risk of disease; 3) denial of resources for COVID-19 prevention and mitigation; 4) expansion of intersecting oppressive systems; and 5) community-based resistance and mobilization against immigration policies and enforcement. Our findings highlight the harms from policing, criminalization, and exclusion that racialized communities face as a result of the (in)actions within the immigration system during a public health disaster including the COVID context.

You do not currently have access to this content.