Objectives: We sought to understand how local immigration enforcement policies affect the utilization of health services among immigrant Hispanics/Latinos in North Carolina.
Methods: In 2012, we analyzed vital records data to determine whether local implementation of section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act and the Secure Communities program, which authorizes local law enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration laws, affected the prenatal care utilization of Hispanics/Latinas. We also conducted 6 focus groups and 17 interviews with Hispanic/Latino persons across North Carolina to explore the impact of immigration policies on their utilization of health services.
Results: We found no significant differences in utilization of prenatal care before and after implementation of section 287(g), but we did find that, in individual-level analysis, Hispanic/Latina mothers sought prenatal care later and had inadequate care when compared with non-Hispanic/Latina mothers. Participants reported profound mistrust of health services, avoiding health services, and sacrificing their health and the health of their family members.
Conclusions: Fear of immigration enforcement policies is generalized across counties. Interventions are needed to increase immigrant Hispanics/Latinos' understanding of their rights and eligibility to utilize health services. Policy-level initiatives are also needed (e.g., driver's licenses) to help undocumented persons access and utilize these services.