It was really exciting to see California front and center this year at Families USA’s 2016 Health Action Conference. Sometimes when we are entrenched in the work, we often forget to reflect on our successes and the tremendous grit, collaboration, and leadership that go into it all. We were humbled as Dr. Bob Ross, President and CEO of The California Endowment, and Marielena Hicapie, Executive Director of the National Immigration Law Center, reminded us just how far California has come but also how much more work there still is to do. Later, we were absolutely thrilled to see our colleague and friend, Reshma Shamasunder, former Executive Director of the California Immigrant Policy Center, honored as the Health Equity Advocate of the Year.
When we talk about immigration, we don’t talk enough about the health of our families. As we work to improve the lives of immigrants and their families, we must remove barriers to health care and ensure that everyone receives the care they need. Our country will be stronger when all communities – regardless of immigration status – have access to care and the same opportunity at a healthy future.
While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has expanded health care coverage options for some immigrants, immigration status continues to stand as the major social determinant impacting health and hampering the progress of immigrant communities in unnecessary ways. The report includes the following recommendations to promote public health and economic well-being:
When I first began organizing as an undocumented student on campus at Cal State Fullerton, my biggest challenges was building up my skill-set so that I could effectively run campaigns on my own. When I attended my first training at the Social Justice Summit at Cal State Fullerton in 2006, I saw the power of joining a passion for justice with helpful tools and advocacy skills that move pro-immigrant policies.
Today, I find myself a more seasoned organizer, thanks in part to the help from training spaces like the Social Justice Summit. When I reflect on milestone fights, such as the hard-won AB 60 Driver’s License bill, the California TRUST Act, and others, I notice a connecting thread between those that made it possible. From the undocumented pre-med student activist to the community organizer, not only do we have a fierce passion for working towards a future where immigrant communities live brighter, healthier, safer lives, but we are also committed to developing supportive spaces that build a stronger and more inclusive movement.
Whether it is through up-to-date information, face time with allies, or sharing helpful strategies, it is critical that we be involved in spaces for knowledge exchange between advocates of diverse levels of experience and from different walks of life. This is why the California Immigrant Policy Center (CIPC) has committed to creating such spaces through our biannual regional trainings.