Accessible Healthcare for Undocumented Immigrants Proposed by Philadelphia City Council

Cristina Martinez and Ben Miller wake up early every morning to prepare for the hundreds of customers they serve daily. The couple own El Compadre, an award winning restaurant in South Philadelphia that serves authentic Mexican food. Despite the hectic tasks of owning a popular restaurant, Martinez and Miller have to be extra cautious with not overworking themselves. Due to Martinez’s status as an undocumented immigrant, the couple does everything they can do to prevent seeking medical attention.

Miller and Martinez aren’t the only ones who have to incorporate preventative health measures into their daily lives.

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Cristina Martinez and Ben Miller working in their south Philadelphia Restaurant, El Compadre. (Austin Ampeloquio/Philadelphia Neighborhoods)

The Pew Foundation estimates that there around 50,000 undocumented immigrants living in Philadelphia. Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for marketplace health insurance according to the federal government, but politicians in Philadelphia are making an effort to have talks about access to healthcare a priority in the national political conversation.

The Philadelphia City Council adopted a resolution in March urging the U.S. Senate to pass the Medicare For All Act, a single payer healthcare reform bill that pushes for universal health coverage. According to the city council resolution, 165,000 Philadelphia residents lack healthcare coverage.

At the top of the council’s resolution, it notes that everybody residing in the United States deserves quality healthcare, regardless of citizenship status.

Omar Martinez, a professor at Temple University’s College of Public Health, believes more of his peers who work in healthcare need to start advocating for access to treatment for under-served populations.

“As healthcare and social service professionals, we have a duty to serve our clients regardless of documentation status,” Omar Martinez said. “So I make a call to health professionals to challenge their institutions, to challenge these anti-immigration policies because they’re directly affecting and impacting our clients.”

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