Contra Costa Times, Oct. 23, 2007
By Sarah Terry-Cobo
BERKELEY — Immigrants, particularly those of Latin American origin, significantly contribute to the work force but are harmed by the lack of health care coverage, according to a UC Berkeley report released Monday. The study was based on US Census data.
“What this report is showing, unfortunately, is that immigrants and those who come from Mexico and Latin American countries are absorbing the most difficult jobs and are facing the highest job-related deaths,” said Xochitl Castaneda, director of the Health Initiative of the Americas, a program of the UC Office of the President.
Mexican immigrants make up nearly one-third of U.S. population, but because they are usually employed in dangerous occupations, such as farming and construction, they account for 44 percent of immigrant workers who die on the job or as a result of an on-the-job injury, the report states.
Professor Steven Wallace, associate director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, School of Public Health, described some of the findings.
“Despite taking the large number of dangerous jobs in the country, (immigrants) are not offered the basic necessities such as health insurance, where they are literally putting their life on the line,” he said.
The research for “Migration, Health and Work: The Facts Behind the Myths,” was conducted by the UCLA and UC Berkeley schools of public health, the UC Office of the President and the Health Initiative of the Americas.
In particular, Mexican immigrants often work at low-wage jobs that provide little or no insurance. Nationwide, about one-fifth of Mexican immigrants in sectors such as construction, agriculture and service industries have insurance, the report states.
In addition, the report notes that Latin American immigrants are in better overall health than most non-Latino whites, but their health declines the longer they reside in the United States This is most likely because of inadequate access to services and lack of funds to pay for prevention and treatment.
Immigrants arrive healthy, Wallace said. “There needs to be a concern with adequate levels of health care services so they can maintain the level of health,” that they had when they entered the country.
“The report is an instrument for those who want to make informed decisions,” said Castaneda. “It provides facts behind the myths for those who really want to construct a better world, who should be more informed.”
The release of the report coincides with the Binational Health Week and the Binational Policy Forum on Migration and Health held in Los Angeles.
By the numbers
# One in four workers in California are Latino immigrants.
# One in five employed men in California ages 18-64 are Mexican immigrants.
# Eight in 10 agricultural workers in California are Mexican immigrants.
# 94 percent of Mexican immigrant men in the United States are actively employed.
# One in four Mexican immigrant adults live in families that are below the federal poverty level.
# “Mexican immigrants report fewer chronic conditions overall, spend fewer days in bed because of illness and have lower mortality rates than U.S.-born non-Latino whites.”
Source: “Migration, Health and Work: Facts behind the Myths”