Kaiser Health News’ Phil Galewitz spotlights a 50-year-old federal effort to provide health care to migrant farmworkers, one which provides funds to 156 health centers (list) throughout the country. There are 13 each in Texas and Florida and 27 in California, and in 2010 the government contributed $166 million to the care of about 900,000 migrant and seasonal laborers. “Such clinics,” Galewitz writes, “have become the latest flash points in the national immigration debate.”
Health center officials across the country describe how local, state and national law enforcement authorities have staked out migrant clinics, detained staff members transporting patients to medical appointments and set up roadblocks near their facilities and health fairs as part of immigration crackdowns.
Proponents say the clinics help ensure the health of the people most responsible for the handling and production of the American food supply, while conservative groups argue that the federal government shouldn’t be providing benefits for illegal immigrants, a group that makes up about half of the 3 million-strong migrant farm labor force.