Immigration Policy and Public Health

16 Indiana Health Law Review 235 (2019)

Emory Legal Studies Research Paper 20-3

23 Pages Posted: 9 Jun 2020

See all articles by Polly J. Price

Polly J. Price

Emory University School of Law

Date Written: May 11, 2019


Federal law and immigration policy create distinctions between citizens and non-citizens that threaten public health in the US. We rely on local health departments to prevent and contain the spread of contagious disease among the US population. But recent policy initiatives, including the attempt to redefine “public charge,” make the job of local health departments harder. In this article, I show how previous administrations protected the public health interests of state and local governments following welfare reform in the 1990s, compared with a new “public charge” doctrine that experience has shown produces “negative public health consequences” and, as DHS admits, could lead to “increased prevalence of communicable diseases, including among members of the U.S. citizen population.” In implementing a policy to discourage would-be immigrants who are poor, the federal government has lost sight of “population” health that is the domain of the local public health department.

Keywords: PRWORA, Public Health, Public Charge, Immigration, Immigrant, ASPR, Citizen, Public Benefit, Medicare, Medicaid, IIRAIRA, Health Department, Baltimore v. Trump, Detainee, Customs and Border Protection, CBP, Welfare Reform, Contagious Disease, HIV, EMTALA, Affordable Care Act, Undocumented

Suggested Citation

Price, Polly J., Immigration Policy and Public Health (May 11, 2019). 16 Indiana Health Law Review 235 (2019), Emory Legal Studies Research Paper 20-3, Available at SSRN:

Polly J. Price (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-727-7869 (Phone)

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