Living Barriers and the Emotional Labor of Accessing Care from the Margins


  • Elizabeth Farfán-Santos



The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the deeply entrenched inequalities and barriers in the U.S. healthcare system. Past research would suggest that extant barriers to care for undocumented immigrant communities, such as those pertaining to citizenship status, class, race, language fluency, and employment status as well as increased demands for documentation, fear of deportation, and general mistrust in the public healthcare system (Heyman, Nuñez, and Talavera 2009; Flores 2015; Hacker et al. 2015), would be amplified within the pandemic climate, making access to care even more difficult. Building from my research on undocumented motherhood and health access, I explore the emotional labor performed by undocumented communities in navigating multiple barriers to accessing public health services as a way to think more deeply about the struggles these communities may be facing during the current COVID-19 pandemic, but also as a way to imagine what kind of work might be required fundamentally to remove barriers to health and improve long-term access to care for the most vulnerable communities.