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Systems of Oppression



A Population in Peril: A Health Crisis among Asylum Seekers on the Northern Border of Mexico

As the crisis at the U.S. Southern Border unfolded in spring and summer of 2019, HGHI realized that public health has a unique, non-partisan role to play by applying a public health lens to a highly politicized stand-off at the border and in overcrowded detention centers. We aim to better understand the health challenges of migration and consequences to well-being caused by U.S. and Mexico Border crisis.

In The BMJ Opinion from the HGHI Team

Cross-border implications of the US response to COVID-19: an escalating health crisis on Mexico’s northern border

The health crisis at the northern border of Mexico is quickly escalating. While it is clear that the situation will not be resolved until the underlying policies that threaten asylum seekers and migrants are addressed, there are still interventions that could save lives if immediately implemented. As outbreaks hasten, the fact that many people along the border could have been protected from covid-19 through humane and proactive policies, will make the losses all the more devastating. The HGHI team explains more here.  


May 13, 2021, 12:00 PM

A Perpetual Crisis: Reflections on Renewed Public Health Failures at the U.S./Mexico Border

In March, 2021, a record number of children arrived at the U.S./Mexico border, challenging capacity at US Customs and Border Protection facilities and placing newfound pressure on the Biden Administration to act promptly. However this humanitarian crisis is not new, nor is it a direct result of a new U.S. government administration. For decades, the U.S. has failed to improve a system ill-equipped to handle the needs of vulnerable refugees and migrants. As children wait in overcrowded jail-like structures and COVID-19 remains a threat, concerns about who will continue to suffer at the border, and for how long, persist.

On May 13th, 2021, the Harvard Global Health Institute and the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights hosted an intimate discussion on this pressing issue. This conversation built off of our three previous events and report that examined the public health crisis at the U.S./Mexico border. Given the historical patterns of inaction from the U.S. and Mexico governments as well as the evolving humanitarian crisis, expert panelists critically evaluated current challenges and addressed necessary steps for establishing humane border policies.

Webinar & Report Launch, July 2020

The Health Crisis on the Northern Mexico Border: Cross-Border Implications of U.S. Immigration Policies

There is a growing public health crisis at the northern Mexico border. Immigration policies instituted both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic have directly put asylum seekers and migrants at risk for poor health outcomes. As outbreaks of COVID-19 spread in communities and shelters where asylum seekers and migrants live; the key tenets to infection prevention are nearly impossible to adhere to. Worse so, healthcare services have been drastically scaled back, leaving minimal resources to care for this high-risk population.


Stakeholder Meeting, November 2019

Responding to Health Needs on the Border: Identifying Priorities

In November 2019, policymakers, experts, and frontline workers came together for a Stakeholder Meeting on the public health crisis on the northern Mexico border. The goal of the meeting was to identify and prioritize the most pressing needs and develop action steps to addressing them. Key takeaways included the need for aggregated information on the major health challenges and obstacles to care for this population; and facilitated dialogue between the organizations on the ground providing care, with the goal to better identify practical interventions and align priorities. The meeting followed an event hosted by The Harvard Global Health Institute, in collaboration with The Woodrow Wilson Center, Boston College School of Social Work, The David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, and Harvard University Mexican Association of Students. 

Participants in the November 8th meeting included:

  • Adolfo Flores, National Security Correspondent for Immigration, Buzzfeed News
  • Julie Qashu, Emergency Medicine Nurse, Volunteer
  • Alejandro Olayo-Mendez, Assistant Professor, Boston College School of Social Work
  • Father Javier Calvillo, Director, Casa Del Migrante
  • Eunice Rendón, Representative, Chicanos por la Causa
  • Kiryn Lanning, Senior Technical Advisor for Emergencies, Violence Prevention & Response, International Rescue Committee
  • Thalia Porteny, Postdoctoral Fellow, REACH Lab, Tufts University
  • Rachel Schmidtke, Former Program Associate, Migration, Mexico Institute
  • Stefanie Friedhoff, Director of Content and Strategy, Harvard Global Health Institute
  • Megan Diamond, Assistant Director of Programs & Innovation, Harvard Global Health Institute
  • Luke Testa, Program Assistant, Harvard Global Health Institute

November 2019

Public Health Crisis at the Border: The Mexican Perspective

The Trump Administration’s new ‘remain in Mexico’ policy is causing an influx of migrants waiting on the Mexican side of the border. By the time they reach the border, many migrants are traumatized, have untreated chronic diseases and are in need of medical treatment.  In response to this dynamic situation, The Harvard Global Health Institute, The Woodrow Wilson Center, Boston College School of Social Work, The David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, and Harvard University Mexican Association of Students, will convene key policymakers, experts and frontline workers to discuss the current conditions on the border, extrapolate applicable lessons learned from other crises, and identify approaches to ensuring basic health coverage for this vulnerable population.  

July 2019

The Public Health Crisis on the U.S. Border: An Urgent Conversation

The public health crisis on the U.S Border is escalating. Children are being held in squalid conditions; abuse is rampant and people are dying due to inadequate health services. In response to this dire situation, the Harvard Global Health Institute convened a multi-disciplinary panel of front-line responders and experts to provide a health perspective on the situation. Attended by over 200 members of the Harvard community, together we identified action steps to mitigate the suffering of people caught in the crosshairs of demographic shifts, violence, and political posturing.