Disabled People Aren’t Welcome Here

CW: Ableism

Immigrants with disabilities encounter systemic challenges, including discrimination, socioeconomic deprivation, and barriers to accessing the safety net. However, little information is available on the frequency of disability and the characteristics of adult immigrants who are not elderly. 5.6 percent of nonelderly immigrants are disabled based on five-year estimates from the 2015 to 2019 American Community Survey.

In 2017 a 10-year-old girl with Cerebral Palsy was detained by federal immigration authorities in Texas. She passed through a Border Patrol checkpoint. The child was en route to a hospital for urgent gallbladder surgery.

Rosamaria Hernandez was brought over the border illegally to live in Laredo, Texas when she was three months old. She was transferred from a medical center in Laredo to a hospital in Corpus Christi. It was approximately 2 A.M on October 25, 2017.

Border Patrol agents stopped the ambulance she was riding in. The family says the agents permitted her to proceed to Driscoll Children’s Hospital. However, they followed the ambulance the rest of the way there. Subsequently, they stood outside her room until she was released.

Hernandez’s parents fought to have her released. Federal officials released Hernandez on November 3. Eleven days after her ordeal began.

The Canada Immigration Act requires the country to reject applications for immigration from people who have any disease, disorder, disability, or other health impairment that could pose a risk to public health or safety or that could reasonably be expected to place an undue burden on health or social services.

Denmark has some of the strictest immigration policies. According to the Danish Institute for Human Rights’ equality office, if a disabled person is unable to meet language or full-time occupation requirements, the disabled person is placed in a less favorable position than other applicants. In 2020, 97.7% of dispensation applications were denied without explanation.

Changes need to be made to immigration policies to ensure that disabled people are not subject to discriminatory requirements. Disabled people should be able to receive the care they need regardless of where they live.


“Denmark: Impossible for Disabled People to Secure Citizenship.” European Website on Integration, 26 Nov. 2021, ec.europa.eu/migrant-integration/news/denmark-impossible-disabled-people-secure-citizenship_en.

Echave , Paola, and Dulce Gonzalez. “Being an Immigrant with Disabilities.” Urban Institute, 25 Apr. 2022, http://www.urban.org/research/publication/being-immigrant-disabilities#:~:text=Immigrants%20with%20disabilities%20face%20multiple,barriers%20to%20safety%20net%20access.

“Immigration.” Immigration Council of Canadians with Disabilities, http://www.ccdonline.ca/en/socialpolicy/immigration. Accessed 25 May 2023.

Sacchetti, Maria. “U.S. Frees 10-Year-Old Undocumented Immigrant with Cerebral Palsy.” The Washington Post, 11 Nov. 2017 http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/immigration/us-frees-10-year-old-undocumented-immigrant-with-cerebral-palsy/2017/11/03/283fd53a-

Yee, Vivian, and Caitlin Dickerson. “10-Year-Old Immigrant Is Detained after Agents Stop Her on Way to Surgery.” The New York Times, 26 Oct. 2017, http://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/25/us/girl-cerebral-palsy-detained-immigration.html.

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