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

State and Federal Levels

There are many opportunities at the state and federal levels of government that nurses can take to improve conditions of immigrants. Become familiar with immigration organizations that can provide assistance for patients. For example, nurses may encounter girls and women who have suffered from female genital mutilation; immigrant victims of domestic violence; and immigrant survivors of other traumas. Several regional and national immigration organizations, such as the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, may be able to refer a patient to a qualified immigration attorney (Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, 2020; American Immigration Lawyers Association, 2019). Legal representation can make the difference in whether a person obtains lawful immigration status (Eagly & Shafer, 2016).

Finally, watch for volunteer or advocacy opportunities. The current refugee crisis at the U.S. border with Mexico has led to multiple deaths of children in detention from fevers and other illnesses. (Acevedo, 2019) Volunteer opportunities for medical professionals are available in a variety of time increments, from a Saturday to as little as an hour. (Give an Hour, 2020; Refugee Health Alliance, 2019) Participate in coalition building, such as through the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. Finally, contact your elected officials to relate your experience and express your opinions on healthcare policies that affect immigrants.