Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

There are less than 72 hours left in this Mid-Year Campaign and our independent journalism needs your help today.
If you value our work, please support Common Dreams. This is our hour of need.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

A new study by two dozen public health experts finds that, contrary to right-wing fear-mongering, immigrants do more to improve the health of their new country than to harm it. (Photo: Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times) 

New Lancet Study Shows Right-Wing Attacks on Refugees and Migrants Based on 'White Nationalist Propaganda'—Not Facts

"Migrants commonly contribute more to the economy than they cost, and how we shape their health and well-being today will impact our societies for generations to come."

Julia Conley

A new study published Thursday in The Lancet, one of the world's preeminent medical journals, makes clear the increasingly familiar attacks used by right-wingers worldwide to dehumanize migrants and refugees by describing them as disease-infested is a xenophobic slur rooted in racism and hate, not facts or the science of public health.

The two-year analysis by two dozen experts at universities including Johns Hopkins and Columbia found that international migrants are less likely than people born in their new countries to die of conditions including heart disease, cancer, respiratory illnesses, and others.

The notion that immigrants like the small group of asylum-seekers who traveled from Central American countries to the U.S.-Mexico border recently are unhealthy and will bring disease into the U.S. "is a false argument that is used to keep migrants out," one of the study's authors, Dr. Paul Spiegel of the Center for Humanitarian Health at Johns Hopkins, told NBC News.

The report, published in the Lancet on Wednesday, follows a number of xenophobic, fear-mongering segments on Fox News in which media personalities—after spending weeks claiming that the group of refugees was made up of criminals—resorted to a new tactic, dubbing the group a "caravan of diseases"—provoking outrage but not surprise on social media. 

Ironically, President Donald Trump's immigration policies may contribute to poor health among the migrants whose right to claim asylum in the U.S. he has aggressively attacked. Immigrants who enter into a society with diseases are likely to have become ill in refugee camps or detention centers they're forced into upon arrival, like the more than 200 centers immigrants are currently being held in the U.S., Spiegel noted.

"It's not migrants or migration itself that is spreading disease," he told NBC. "It may be the situations that they are in and the lack of access to basic care that may exacerbate the situation."

In the following video, Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, and Ibrahim Abubakar, chair of the commission behind the study, detail some of its main findings:

Immigrants' health can also be negatively effected by policies like Trump's proposal to reject immigrants who apply for legal permanent residence, or green cards, if they have used programs including Medicaid, SNAP, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or other assistance.

"Forgoing care can exacerbate medical conditions leading to sicker patients and a higher reliance on hospital emergency departments," American Hospital Association president Rick Pollack told NBC.

The Lancet report coincides with a study by the American Medical Association (AMA) which detailed the contributions immigrants have made to the U.S. healthcare system. As NBC reported:

Sixteen percent of healthcare workers in the U.S. were born somewhere else, including 29 percent of physicians, 16 percent of registered, nurses 20 percent of pharmacists, 24 percent of dentists and 23 percent of nursing, psychiatric and home health aides.

The populist exploitation of public fears about migration has led to rising levels of nationalism, xenophobia, and hate crimes," Lancet editor Richard Horton said. "The purpose of this commission is to bring the subject of discussion about migration down to people, back to people's health and their wellbeing. That's the issue we should be concerned about: solidarity between peoples."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Markey, Bowman Join Climate Coalition in Urging SCOTUS Expansion

"We cannot sit idly by," said Markey, "as extremists on the Supreme Court eviscerate the authorities that the government has had for decades to combat climate change and reduce pollution."

Brett Wilkins ·


Ocasio-Cortez Says US 'Witnessing a Judicial Coup in Process'

"It is our duty to check the Court's gross overreach of power in violating people's inalienable rights and seizing for itself the powers of Congress and the president."

Brett Wilkins ·


Critics Say Biden Drilling Bonanza 'Won't Lower Gas Prices' But 'Will Worsen Climate Crisis'

"President Biden's massive public lands giveaway in the face of utter climate catastrophe is just the latest sign that his climate commitments are mere rhetoric," said one campaigner.

Kenny Stancil ·


Grave Warnings as Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Case That Threatens 'Future of Voting Rights'

"Buckle up," implores one prominent legal scholar. "An extreme decision here could fundamentally alter the balance of power in setting election rules in the states and provide a path for great threats to elections."

Brett Wilkins ·


Biden Urged to Take Emergency Action After 'Disastrous' Climate Ruling by Supreme Court

"The catastrophic impact of this decision cannot be understated," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, but "we cannot accept defeat."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo