More than 75 people attended a panel discussion on the current immigration crisis, titled, “Migration is a Human Right: A Call to Action,” at the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health on June 29.
Jill de Zapien, associate dean of community programs at the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health, welcomed everyone who came to the panel discussion despite the 104 degrees temperature late on a Friday afternoon.
“As you know we are facing a human rights crisis in our country and our community. Specifically, today regarding family separation but more broadly regarding the human right of migration,” Ms. de Zapien said.
Heidi Pottinger, DrPH, director of clinical investigations at the College of Public Health and an alumna, said they put the event together to increase awareness about the public health impact of U.S. immigration policy and the practice of separating families at the border.
The eight panelists were a mix of public health faculty and staff, health professionals, and leaders of local advocacy organizations with firsthand experience working on the Arizona-Mexico border. Each panelist shared their individual experience working with communities on both sides of the border and ideas for how people can get involved.
“The idea was to share our collective experience working in Arizona border communities and to provide suggestions for people interested in how to get involved here in Tucson,” Dr. Pottinger said.
Anna O’Leary, PhD, associate professor in the UA Department of Mexican American Studies, asked the audience, “What are you willing to do to counter the misrepresentations about immigrants that are out there? As an instructor and professor, I tell my students all the time, it takes a lot of work to be informed."
Dr. O'Leary encouraged audience members to continue to inform themselves of the facts, pointing out that the easy way is to listen to what other people say who make up their own facts. The hard way is gathering facts, read, study, inquire, and get firsthand information.
Lisa Kiser, CNM, WHNP, a senior lecturer at the UA College of Nursing and health nurse practitioner at St. Elizabeth’s Health Center, talked about her patients and medical advocacy. Kiser recalled the many times she has cared for women with various types of cancer and no health insurance. She explained that these women would choose to stay in the U.S. and die with their family beside them over going back to Mexico for medical treatment and risk never seeing their children again because of the very real possibility that they may not be able to get back into the country again.
Daniel Derksen, MD, professor of public health policy and director of the Center for Rural Health at the UA College of Public Health; urged people to, “Add your voice to an advocacy organization.” Dr. Derksen belongs to both the Arizona and national chapters of the Public Health Association and the Arizona Rural Health Association. He is also a board member of the Arizona Academy of Family Physicians.