The health of Muslim Americans in Minnesota suffered during former President Donald Trump’s travel ban, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and led by the Yale School of Public Health.
The study found lingering health effects on Muslim, refugee and immigrant communities residing in the US, including increased emergency room visits, missed primary care appointments, and more stress-related diagnoses.
Researchers analysed more than 250,000 adult patients living in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area between January 2016 and December 2017 and compared their primary care and emergency department visits one year before to one year after the ban was issued. Researchers sorted patient data into three groups: adults born in a country listed in the travel ban countries, adults born in Muslim-majority countries not listed in the banned countries, and American-born, non-Latinx adults.
“The psychological and social pressures of what happened during the Trump administration are not just bureaucratic, legal effects. They are effects on people’s bodies and people’s psyches and people’s minds and people’s sense of well-being,” said Gregg Gonsalves, an associate professor at the Yale School of Public Health and an author of the study.
Although primary care visits for stress-related diagnoses were up for all Muslim American patients before the ban in January 2017, researchers found that after the ban was enacted, Muslim American patients from the banned countries increasingly visited the emergency department.
Trump’s ban, which was later revised, upheld and expanded in court, separated families and individuals from impacted countries, prevented them from seeking medical care and caused people to miss out on work and educational opportunities, funerals and birthdays. Women in the US who were from countries listed on the travel ban list were more likely to deliver babies prematurely.
While President Joe Biden rescinded the travel ban on his first day in office and has allowed for certain individuals to reapply for visas, the impacts of the ban remain. Previous visa lottery winners who were qualified to enter the US but were barred from entering the country in time lost their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to migrate to the US.
“Trump took a policy, used it as a weapon against a community in the United States, and it had direct effects of separating families and throwing misery among many people of Muslim American origin,” said Gonsalves. “The effects of policies don’t necessarily play out in the realm in which they were devised; they often can have downstream effects that have pretty serious consequences for health.”