Tell Congress that 15 years is way too long for immigrant women to wait for affordable health care

immigrant women protestingEd. note: This is a guest post by Juliana Britto Schwartz. By day, Juliana is a student at University of California, Santa Cruz. By night, she is a Latina feminist blogger at, where she writes about reproductive health justice, immigration, and feminist movements in Latin America.

By now you’ve probably heard a bit about the immigration reform bill that the Senate has proposed. You’ve probably heard about the increased spending on border security it contains (regardless of the fact that our border is the most secure it’s ever been), as well as the proposed increase in employment-based visas, particularly for skilled workers. You may also know that the bill allows DREAMers (immigrants who were brought to the U.S. before the age of 16) to obtain a green card in as little as five years.

But perhaps the most controversial aspect of the legislation lies in the proposed pathway to citizenship, a 10-year process that costs about $2,000, a sum that many low-income undocumented people cannot afford. As Verónica noted last week, during this time–and for five years after–immigrants are not eligible for government safety-net programs like Medicaid, food stamps, Social Security or Obamacare. We know that undocumented women are much more likely than other women to be uninsured, which means that right now, undocumented women have to pay extremely high prices out of pocket in order to access health care. Considering that undocumented women are often low-income, this often means just not going to the doctor. Not getting those wellness check-ups. No cervical cancer screenings, no pap smears, no re-evaluation of birth control methods.

And with this proposed bill, none of that would change. For another 15 years, these women would continue to not be able to go to the doctor.

15 years is long enough to contract an STI and not get it checked out until your fertility is long gone. It’s long enough to be stuck on the cheapest birth control you can find and suffer the side effects that particular brand has on your particular body. It’s long enough to have an unplanned pregnancy and be unable to afford the abortion you want. It’s long enough to develop breast cancer and not detect it until it’s too late. 

Immigrant women are already speaking out against this: The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health has some amazing mujeres poderosas running a letter campaign to our Senators. But they shouldn’t be the only ones. All movements need allies, and good allies understand their own personal interest in ending all forms of oppression. When I look at this community, I see networks of support for Latina feminist issues and potential for revolución.

So, prove me right. Take these 3 easy steps to tell Congress that all people should have the basic human right to health care.

Step 1: Use the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health’s tool to send an automated email to your Senator.

Step 2: Ask your friends to do the same. I even composed some nifty tweets for you to send out:

Sign @NLIRH’s petition & Congress that #15Years is too long #4immigrantwomen to live without affordable healthcare!

#15años para accesar servicios de salud es demasiado. !Digale al Congreso que mujeres imigrantes se merecen más!

Step 3: Start a conversation about what you hope to see for immigrant women within comprehensive immigration reform. If you’re on Twitter, be sure to use #4immigrantwomen and #15years/#15años to make sure that people hear you!

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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