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Stretching the Safety Net to Serve Undocumented Immigrants: Community Responses to Health Needs

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Publication Date: February 2006

Publisher(s): Center for Studying Health System Change

Author(s): Andrea Staiti; Robert E. Hurley; Aaron Katz

Series: Issue Brief No. 104

Topic: Health (Health services for non-citizens)

Type: Brief


A small but increasing proportion of immigrants to the United States is undocumented. Because most undocumented immigrants lack health insurance, they primarily rely on safety net providers for care. Communities with more developed safety nets and historically large numbers of immigrants appear more adept at caring for both legal and undocumented immigrants, according to Center for Studying Health System Change’s (HSC) 2005 site visits to 12 nationally representative communities. Communities with less experience caring for immigrant populations and less-developed safety nets face challenges caring for this population, but many are taking steps to improve their ability to meet immigrant needs. As the number of immigrants in the U.S. grows, the need to develop community health care capacity for immigrants will intensify.