Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: Elevating Hispanic Voices and Addressing Health Care Needs

Written by: Nicauris Veras

As Hispanic Heritage Month draws to a close, we must take a moment to reflect on the pressing needs of Hispanic immigrants. This month is a time for celebration, but creating spaces where their voices can be heard is equally important.

One significant issue that deserves our attention is the impact of policies like Title 42. This policy has left a dark legacy, adversely impacting asylum seekers and facilitating mass deportations under the guise of safeguarding American soil. Recognizing that Title 42 was never truly about protecting public health is crucial. Instead, it functioned as a double standard policy that disproportionately affected black and brown immigrants, regardless of their circumstances in their home countries.

While Title 42 may have been lifted, the underlying factors driving migrants to flee their home countries persist. Migrants continue to flee violence and economic instability and continue on their journey to the United States, hoping for a better life. States such as Texas, Florida, and New York grapple with an ongoing influx of migrants. In response to this challenge, states like Florida have adopted discretionary removal measures. They purport to offer migrants a haven within cities governed by Democratic leadership.

Florida’s Governor DeSantis initiated actions that involved transporting migrants to destinations outside of the state, like Martha’s Vineyard, without notifying local authorities and organizations. He enticed them with misleading promises of jobs and shelter. Furthermore, similar transportation schemes were carried out to other cities – Washington, D.C., and New York – under the pretext that these states are known for welcoming immigrants and, therefore, should embrace them without hesitation. Although the relocation to democratic-led cities was voluntary, it is important to recognize the ill intentions behind these measures. Transporting migrants to Washington, D.C., and New York is proposed to provide migrants with a “haven,” but instead, the anti-immigration rhetoric and motive to deny arriving migrants access to services, jobs, healthcare, and housing in his state is apparent.

Title 42 officially ended on May 11th, 2023, under the Biden Administration, but migrants continue to face barriers and the effects of anti-immigration rhetoric. Florida recently passed bill SB 1718, one of the strongest anti-immigration legislations. This bill requires hospitals to track patients’ immigration status, mandates using E-Verify for larger Florida employers, limits access to state driver’s licenses and State Bar licenses and introduces state-level penalties for violations of these rules. Undocumented migrants will be prohibited from driving, and if they have a license from another state, it will not be recognized within the state of Florida if they are not able to provide proof of lawful presence within the U.S. Those within law school will also not be able to be admitted to the state bar in Florida.

One of the most concerning aspects of this law is the requirement for hospitals that accept Medicaid to inquire about a person’s U.S. citizenship, or lawful presence in the U.S., on their registration and admission forms. This situation exacerbates the disparity in healthcare access for immigrants, magnifying their challenges. Factors like legal status, language barriers, and limited access to care already contribute to these disparities, making it difficult for undocumented immigrants to obtain necessary medical treatment.

Among those most deeply affected by these barriers are pregnant immigrants. Florida isn’t the only state where undocumented immigrants encounter hurdles in accessing prenatal and postpartum care. Even persons who are lawfully present in the U.S. can face obstacles due to state laws and policy gaps, like the Affordable Care Act. Recognizing these issues and the ongoing disparities in healthcare accessibility, organizations like ours, Global Foundation for Girls, have taken action. 

Due to the pressing needs, I volunteered at Catholic Charities, one of the agencies in partnership with the Immigration Coalition of N.Y. Immigration is a matter that is very dear to me, not only because I am an immigrant myself, but also because I have seen how the policies have affected those immediately around me and continue to negatively affect those who are seeking a better life within the United States.

During my on-the-ground research, I frequently encountered families who, due to their arduous journey here, found themselves picking up the pieces of their lives. Witnessing their struggles and hearing their stories moved me deeply. Families were lining up at agencies, seeking shelter and food resources, and it was during this time that I began to encounter more and more pregnant mothers.

Conversations with these pregnant mothers revealed a heart-wrenching reality: many of them did not have adequate access to healthcare due to the circumstances of their journey and their living situations in their home countries. Some had not received prenatal care throughout their pregnancy, and had only begun seeing a doctor during their third trimester. While the agencies were doing their best to connect them with healthcare, providing them with a list of agencies that offer free or low-cost healthcare would make a difference.

But it wasn’t just about providing healthcare resources; it was about ensuring culturally competent care that could meet their unique needs and overcome the barriers that had previously resulted in adverse effects for this population. A directory with the list of resources that would meet these needs was necessary.

Once the idea for the directory took shape, I contacted local New York agencies to inquire about their services. To my surprise, there were only a small number of agencies that assisted in the language of the immigrants and were also free of cost. Creating a truly useful resource became a collaborative effort between myself, doulas, and birth care agencies in New York. I obtained the agencies’ information, addresses, and details of their services. This collaboration resulted in two directories, one in English and one in Spanish. My goal was to make it accessible for the immigration agencies working with immigrants on the ground and to have a directory that could be easily handed out to migrant families.

The directory provides at least one resource for prenatal care, free of charge in the five NY boroughs:

For Staten Island Residents: Services are free, other services may be free with Medicaid eligibility:
Community Health Center of Richmond
Birth Doula & Postpartum Services
135 Canal Street Suit 300 Staten Island NY 10304
(718) 924-2254
Nataly Jasso Morales
[email protected]
English & Spanish

For Bronx, Queens & Manhattan Residents: Services are free
Caribbean Women’s Health Association
Prenatal visits, labor & delivery support, and postpartum visits
3512 Church Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11203
(929) 399-8070
[email protected]
English & Spanish

For Bronx & Manhattan Residents: Services are free with Medicaid Eligibility
Northern Manhattan Perinatal Partnership
Birth Support, Prenatal and Postpartum Meetings, Birth Planning
127 West 127th, Third Floor
New York, New York 10027
Fajah Ferrer
(212) 665-2600 ext.371
[email protected]

For All New York Residents: Services are fee based English & Spanish
Doulas En Español
Pregnancy, Birth and Postpartum Support
[email protected]
Services aim to support Spanish speaking communities
English & Spanish

For All New York Residents: Services are free
Brooklyn Perinatal Network
Pregnancy, Birth and Postpartum Support
259 Bristol St #242, Brooklyn, NY 11212
Denise West
[email protected]
(718) 643-8258
English, Spanish, French/Creole

Although the creation of this directory reduced some of the challenges faced by pregnant immigrants, the barriers continue to be immense. The purpose of this article isn’t to claim that we have entirely addressed and eliminated these barriers but instead to encourage you to join in this effort.

This story is not just about our work at GFG; it’s a testament to what can be achieved when individuals and organizations take a proactive approach to address pressing needs in their communities. This proactive approach isn’t limited to a select few—anyone can embrace it.

That said, next time you get ready to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, remember that it’s not just a month for celebration but also an opportunity to push forward the needs of Hispanic immigrants. It’s a chance to make a difference and offer our support. By advocating for fair and compassionate immigration policies, supporting organizations that provide crucial resources, and engaging in conversations that foster understanding and empathy, we can collectively work towards a more inclusive and equitable society.

How You Can Support:

As a reminder, our commitment to social justice, inclusivity, and compassion should extend far beyond a calendar month.