Reply To: Refugee and Immigrant Rights

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Excerpt from 2016 HEP Policy Strategies Summary

Kay Bounkeau, Executive Director of the New Mexico Asian Family Center and member of Global 505 shared about their work on a panel at the Statewide Health Equity Gathering and the Action-Oriented Small Group Gathering. New Mexico Asian Family Center is New Mexico’s only service provider tailoring its services to be culturally and linguistically appropriate for the Asian Community. Global 505 is an action-oriented network of immigrant and refugee leaders representing voices of Asian, African, Middle Eastern, and Latino populations within the International District and South Valley of Bernalillo County. HEP was honored to have New Mexico Asian Family Center and Global 505 representatives participate in the gatherings and share their experiences, strengths, needs, and ideas. Participants recommend prioritizing refugee and immigrant rights and ensure their voices are centered in decision making processes.

Currently, Global 505 is working to ensure the Albuquerque Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs provides a supportive environment for immigrant and refugee communities. Issues of critical importance for the New Mexico Asian Family Center include: language access implementation; providing racial equity training to law enforcement; and ensuring national data is disaggregated for Asians and not clumped together.

At the Action-Oriented Small Group Gathering, we had an opportunity to dive deeper into some of the issues facing refugee communities. For instance, bullying in schools and hate crimes were highlighted as critical issues, particularly following the recent presidential election. There is a great need for mental health services, including more counseling. Additionally, it is important to keep an eye out for the National Security Entry Registry System which has parallels to Japanese internment camps that took place in New Mexico. Protecting voting rights is also essential.

Within the HEP network, the McKinley Community Collaborative for Health Equity, as part of the McKinley Workers Justice Coalition, is also working in the area of immigrant and workers’ rights as they finish up a HIA on wage theft. Wage theft impacts families when workers are not paid overtime, misclassified, not paid the minimum wage, or simply not paid. The HIA will be an educational document used design to educate the general public and decision makers about the significance of protecting and expand protections of low-wage workers. The HIA has also been opportunity to bring communities (Spanish Speaking Immigrants and Native Americans) to come together across cultural differences to build the power of the people. Please stay tuned for future information about how to get involved and learn more about the work of the coalition.