Nurses as Immigrant Advocates: A Brief Overview

Mary Ellen Biggerstaff, DNP, MSN, RN, FNP; Taiyyeba Safri Skomra, JD


Online J Issues Nurs. 2020;25(2) 

In This Article

Immigrants as Vulnerable Populations

According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2019), about 40 million people, or 13% of the total population are immigrants. Immigrants are more likely to live in poverty (19% overall to 15% immigrant) and lack health insurance (87% to 66%) than native born Americans. In addition to these basic inequalities, immigrants have long faced barriers at every level of healthcare, including discrimination, financial, and policy barriers (Fortier & Bishop, 2004). These barriers are even greater for undocumented immigrants (Hacker et al., 2015).

Inquiry into the ethnic basis of healthcare disparities in the United States can be traced to the Institute of Medicine report, "Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care" (2003). This study brought national attention to prevailing disparities that ethnic minorities experienced in the American healthcare system. Derose, Bahney, and Lurie (2009) completed a systematic review of population based studies of immigrants and healthcare. Their review included 67 quantitative studies that assessed the effect of immigration on healthcare outcomes. The study found that immigrants and those with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) have poorer access to quality primary care and health insurance than native born citizens.