Public health research demonstrates that population health is shaped in large measure by numerous social factors, widely known as the social determinants of health. This Essay argues that immigration law acts as a social determinant that affects the health of both noncitizens and citizens. Looking at several of the Trump administration’s regulatory initiatives, this Essay explores three different pathways through which immigration law may influence population health: creating fear and trauma; restricting access to critical social goods, including health care, food, and housing; and influencing social understandings of health. The Essay concludes by examining the legal mobilization that has arisen in response to the initiatives discussed and arguing that legal mobilization may serve as an additional pathway through which immigration law can affect population health for good or ill.
This essay was adapted from a presentation at the Center's 10th anniversary symposium in September 2019.