As immigration raids loom, Santa Rosa doctors bridge gap between immigrants and health clinics
Mayra Martinez has been taking free wellness classes to learn how to monitor her heart rate and do simple daily exercises in order to improve her health and share the information with her husband, an undocumented immigrant.
Grappling with heightened anxiety about leaving their Roseland house, her husband has stopped going to the doctor and doing routine tasks like grocery shopping because of ongoing threats against Latino immigrant communities across the nation.
Despite weeks of watching her husband shudder each time he hears a passing police or fire siren, Martinez, 27, said she is doing what she can to ensure he and their 6-year-old daughter stay healthy during this stressful time. She did not want to disclose her husband’s name because of his undocumented status.
“I am taking exercise and nutrition classes because I have hopes of becoming a nurse,” said Martinez, who was at the free blood pressure stand at the LandPaths Bayer Farm food donation event last week.
The Bayer Farm and Garden is a 6-acre urban farm and city park in Roseland managed by LandPaths in collaboration with Santa Rosa’s recreation and parks department.
“My husband is from Oaxaca (southern Mexico) and most days, especially right now with the threats, if he is walking in our neighborhood and he sees an SRPD (Santa Rosa Police Department) patrol car drive by, he will cross to the other side of the street or stop walking until it passes because he is afraid,” she said.
He’s one of the estimated 30,000 Latino immigrants living in Sonoma County with increasing worry of being deported.
Threats of impending immigrant roundups by agents with Immigration Customs Enforcement increased after President Donald Trump said June 22 that raids would occur in 10 U.S. cities, including San Francisco.
Trump quickly called off those raids, saying he would give Congress time to come up with asylum legislation and figure out how to slow the flow of migrants at the southern U.S. border. Then Saturday speaking at the G-20 summit in Japan, the president said the nationwide raids would happen sometime after the July 4 holiday barring “something pretty miraculous.”
Though the raids were temporarily suspended, the fear of being deported has driven many Santa Rosa families with immigrant ties into hiding, said Michelle Escobar-McGarry, health promoter at the Santa Rosa Center for Well-Being.
The center offers free classes on healthy living to help prevent diabetes, obesity and arthritis. It also organizes community events, such as the free blood pressure stand at Bayer Farm, to educate people about healthy lifestyles.
“We just want to give everyone assistance, a step up, in taking care of their health, especially with all the stress on immigrant communities right now,” said Escobar-McGarry, who has been working in the health care sector in Santa Rosa for 13 years.
Meanwhile, area hospitals including St. Joseph Health — operator of Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital — Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa and Sutter Health, have been doing outreach to patients by attending community events, going to schools and handing out “Know Your Rights” pamphlets as threats of immigration deportation loom.
In Santa Rosa hospitals, medical providers are directed not to inquire about a patient’s immigration status.
“The last line of our mission statement says, ‘We are steadfast about serving all, especially those who are poor and vulnerable,’ ” said Terri Dente, chief mission officer for St. Joseph Health. “People should feel safe with us.”