Imagine getting sick in a totally unfamiliar place. For most of us, this would not be too much of an issue. All one would need to do in order to get better again is pay a visit to the local doctor, find out what’s wrong, and receive some kind of a prescription medicine. While it might be an inconvenience or only a little stressful for most people living in the United States to seek out healthcare in an unfamiliar setting, it is a completely different story all together for illegal immigrants. To them, seeking out healthcare when they are not legally supposed to be in the country can be risky, and sometimes even completely avoided unless it is absolutely necessary to get outside help. Anthropologist Naomi Wolcott-MacCausland delves deeper into this issue in her article “Health Care by Mail among Latino/a Dairy Workers in a Northern Border State” by exploring how illegal immigrants working on dairy farms in Vermont sought healthcare by reaching back out toward the familiar.
During her time in Vermont, Wolcott-MacCausland observed migrants on dairy farms in Vermont, just along the Canadian border, and how they handled being sick so far from home. She realized they went about seeking medicine for their ailments in a way very different from migrants in other parts of the country: the Latino/a workers on the warm often self-diagnosed, and then asked for medications they would have used back home, in the countries they had come from. They would ask a family member back home for the medicine, and then wait for it to arrive by mail.
Receiving medication from home was, for most of the migrants on the farm, the only way they knew of to receive any kind of healthcare. The workers often spoke little English, had no means of transportation or health insurance, knew very little about their options in terms of healthcare in the United States, and were altogether afraid of what the consequences of seeking out professional medical help could be. All of this reveals an inequality that implies that only legal citizens of the United States may seek the healthcare they need freely, and without needing to fear anything but perhaps their diagnoses. Self-diagnoses and self-medication can be dangerous, but the migrants living in Vermont were more willing to put themselves in physical danger than risk facing problems for seeking out proper medical attention. This problem along the northern border states can, and should be fixed, as nobody should be afraid to reach out for help when their lives could potentially be in danger.
Wolcott-MacCausland, Naomi. “Health Care by Mail among Latino/a Dairy Workers in a Northern Border State.” Anthropology News. Web.