Date of Award

January 2022

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


School of Public Health

First Advisor

Trace Kershaw

Second Advisor

Alice Miller


Background: Rapidly changing immigration policies and anti-immigrant rhetoric have impacted the services available and the health outcomes of undocumented immigrants. Research focusing on the health of noncitizens usually employs a cultural frameworks approach, focusing on individual behaviors or outcomes rather than structural barriers and limitations. This analysis is not adequate for explaining the origins of community-level and structural inequities, and there are existing gaps in research documenting the ways in which policies and changes impact immigrants’ health-seeking behaviors and overall health. Methods: This thesis employed a mixed methods-mixed research synthesis approach to carry out a systematic review. Article selection followed the PRISMA statement and study-analysis was guided by the Public Health Law Research definition and logic model. Only studies mentioning undocumented immigrants and analyzing the impacts of U.S. immigration policy on the health outcomes and healthcare access were taken into consideration. Studies were quantitatively and qualitatively assessed and common themes, pathways, and takeaways were extracted. Results: Using a social determinants of health approach, three different pathways through which immigration law impacts undocumented immigrants’ health were identified: 1) fear, misinformation, and misconceptions of coverage and immigration policies led to increased acculturative stress and a decrease in utilization of health services, 2) systematic exclusion through laws that explicitly excluded undocumented immigrants from qualifying for public services and health insurance, and 3) by influencing social understandings of who deserves healthcare and the collateral role of citizenship. Conclusion: By studying the social and political context of immigration law and its health impact in the United States, an analysis of structural factors is needed in order to help identify opportunities for interventions and improve the health of undocumented immigrants.


This is an Open Access Thesis.

Open Access

This Article is Open Access