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New arrivals in the U.S. confront vast health challenges -- and often feel alone

Living in the shadows immigrant health
Refugee Health
January 04, 2014

Living in the Shadows: Immigration and Health

Immigrants come to the United States fleeing war and genocide. Others arrive seeking better opportunities for their families. But whether they are refugees from Nepal seeking asylum or undocumented Mexican families in Los Angeles, immigrants share common circumstances. Many arrive healthy but develop chronic illnesses as they adopt American habits. Many feel isolated and alone – suffering that can turn toxic over time.

In our Living in the Shadows series, news organizations from around the country joined together to bring to light the interplay between immigration status and health. We will show where health systems fail some of the most vulnerable and highlight effective solutions to common conditions.

We begin in a community of Congolese refugees in Pittsburgh who struggle with depression and heart disease; travel to the South, into the home of a family traumatized when a parent is deported. We enter a California immigration detention center that recognizes past mistakes and works to meet the health care needs of those in custody. And we visit families here illegally who struggle without health insurance, excluded as the rest of the country participates in a sweeping health reform effort. 

Share Your Story

As the series unfolds, we welcome your ideas. You are part of the story too, and we invite you to share your perspective and experiences by writing to, calling us at (213) 640-7534 or through our conversations on these topics on Facebook or on Twitter at @immighealth.


About This Series

Many immigrants feel isolated in America – suffering that can turn toxic over time.

Six news outlets joined together as the Center for Health Journalism Collaborative to highlight the interplay between immigration status and health. The USC Annenberg project involves Mundo Hispánico (Atlanta), New America Media (California and New York), Radio Bilingüe (Fresno and Washington), WESA Pittsburgh, Univision Los Angeles and Univision Arizona.

Topics in this Series

  • Immigrant detention
  • Health Care and the Undocumented
  • Refugee Health
  • Family Separation