Unwelcome Guests

Global Health FS:  Post #3


Photo by Merryn Spence

As the world slowly becomes hyper aware of the violence happening towards certain population overseas, there is less information available about the violence that these populations are experiencing in the United States.  In The Underground Railroad for Refugees, Jake Halpern relays narratives of displaced persons (refugees and asylum seekers) as well as highlight the services that we do and do not provide for them.  In highlighting this perspective, the struggle of refugees becomes more well known to questioning onlookers across the world.     

As I think about the four dimensions of Global Health and how they relate to refugee status, my immediate thought is about how questionable our ethics and responsibility are surrounding the topic.  The U.S. denies millions of people refugee and asylum status, yet if someone takes a chance by spending lots of money to get here, they may have a chance of achieving this status.  This is a huge risk to take, especially in the current political climate.  Towards the end of the article, Halpern mentions the uncertainty and danger of calling the U.S. a “safe” country in these times.  It is our responsibility as a labeled “safe” country to create a safe space for refugees and to provide decent services to this population.  Hundreds of thousands of people live in refugee camps for years, even decades, so that one day they might get the chance to come to the United States for a safer and better life.  Halpern’s findings show that these people may get here and receive neither of those things.   

In relation to power and economics, the inclusion of this population is economically viable.  A common thought amongst the working class in the U.S. is that migrants were taking their jobs.  Now refugees are taking their jobs.  What people are not realizing is that having refugees will benefit us economically if we let it happen. Erie is a shining example.  The county has committed to welcoming about 10,000 refugees, completely changing the scene in Erie and putting the manufacturing town back on the map.  

The cultural and societal aspect of having an “underground” has historical implications that are problematic.  The fact that refugees have to resort to an escape tactic used in the 1800s is unacceptable.  Why is our society so willing to put refugees through this process?  Do people really not know or understand the process or are they choosing to ignore the problem at hand?

The question of safety directly relates to science and the environment.  How is USA, one of the leading countries of the world, no longer considered a safe place?  How have we come to this?  We are physically putting bodies at risk, almost challenging them to get to a country to be able to have asylum.  

The weight of this problems lies in the hands of the government. The Global Health significance includes a plethora of aspects including but not limited to: mental, physical, and emotional health, which entail services from the government.  Our U.S. policy has the ability to worsen or increase health in this population. When a family is living in a country that is violating their basic humans rights and they believe that coming to the United States will save them, yet come here and realize that they are not welcomed and services are unavailable to them it simply makes them even more vulnerable and in a worse off financial situation.  Having a policy that says, “if you can make it to our soil, you can apply for asylum” opens the door for dangerous border crossing, among other illegal activity, that many people in the article experienced who were lucky enough to tell the tale.  This should not be a normal practice, especially with the history of our U.S. Mexican border.  
To me, this article is a missing puzzle piece.  The narratives of refugees and asylum seekers is so often overlooked and sometimes even used to exploit.  Many of these people have had severe trauma, fleeing from threats of death.  Hearing stories helps us to be able to understand this population more deeply, ultimately leading to healthier relationships– in all aspects of the term.   


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