HKS Authors

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Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights, HSPH; Jeremiah Smith Jr. Lecturer in Law, HLS


At the start of the 2022–2023 academic year, a group of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health students approached me to ask whether I would agree to be their academic adviser for a new proposed student group on immigrant health. Apparently, no such group existed; the students told me that no teaching on immigrant health-related issues was offered at Harvard, and no training or internship opportunities for students interested in this specialist area of health work were systematically made available by their departments. I was reminded of how, decades ago, as a young human rights lawyer, I started working on child migration and refugee legal issues because no one I knew was. Lawyers knowledgeable on child law issues (e.g., adoption, abuse, and custody) worked within the domestic child welfare system and understood nothing about the immigration consequences of particular custody or care decisions; meanwhile, advocates engaged in migration and refugee issues subsumed children’s protection claims under those of the parents or guardians, ignoring child-specific risks or rights claims. The migration specialists had no experience of taking instructions from children and no understanding of how adult-centric legal procedures might impact a child’s ability to raise protection fears or claims. Mutatis mutandis, it seemed to me that we were in the same situation again—experts on health were not versed in the complexities of immigration law, while migration lawyers were not really paying attention to questions of health access. Falling between the cracks were millions of migrants whose urgent health claims were going unmet.


Bhabha, Jacqueline. "Health Rights for All: The Imperative of Including All Migrants." Review of Irregular Migrants and the Right to Health, by Stefano Angeleri. Health and Human Rights Journal, 25.1, June 2023: 223-226.