The MGH Immigrant Health Coalition (IHC) will host its third-annual Migration is Beautiful campaign from Dec. 14-18, as part of a nationwide movement to celebrate the resilience and courage of those who come to the United States seeking better opportunities and lives. The campaign coincides with the United Nation’s International Migrants Day.

The week’s events include a documentary screening, presentation by Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition and training by Lawyers for Civil Rights. Large, colorful butterfly wings have been installed on the Bulfinch Lawn on the main campus for staff to pose with and share their images on social media. The monarch butterfly has become a symbol of the importance of migration to the human experience.

“The Migration is Beautiful campaign has taken on renewed significance for us in the context of COVID-19,” says Fiona Danaher, MD, MPH, a pediatrician based at MGH Chelsea HealthCare Center and founder of the IHC. “Inequities in disease burden are driven by rhetoric and policies that deter many immigrants from advocating for safer housing and employment conditions. The irony here is that while many immigrants are essential workers during the pandemic, they are also disproportionately vulnerable to the disease and its economic fallout.”

For more information, visit Mass General's Center or Immigrant Health

Introducing the Mass General Center for Immigrant Health

Massachusetts General Hospital recently launched its Center for Immigrant Health (CIH). The center—jointly funded by the Department of Psychiatry, Mass General for Children and the Office of Equity and Inclusion—will closely coordinate the hospital’s many efforts to improve the health and well-being of migrants through clinical care, education, advocacy and research, according to Dr. Danaher, who founded the CIH.

Q: What was the catalyst for CIH's development?

A: The center is an outgrowth of the MGH Immigrant Health Coalition (IHC), a group of employees dedicated to advancing the health and social equity of immigrants. We founded the network in the wake of the 2018 family separation crisis at the U.S. boarder. What started as a dozen members quickly grew to more than 200 members. What was missing, however, was a central hub to coordinate efforts. Since then, the IHC has engaged in multiple education, inclusivity and legislative advocacy efforts. The CIH will provide a formal institutional home and resources to expand upon this work.

Q: What is the first initiative the center will address?

A: We are hiring an immigrant health resource specialist so that we can quickly increase our consultation and education capacity in response to the next COVID-19 surge. There also have been more than 400 changes to immigration law and regulations in the past four years, which have created significant uncertainty and confusion among immigrant patients and employees alike, so once we have the new specialist in place, we hope to expand access to a medical-legal partnership.

Q: What is the most important thing you think people should know about this effort?

A: We want to send a message to the immigrant community that the health care system is here for them during the COVID-19 epidemic—and after. We've heard too many stories about immigrants afraid to seek COVID-19 testing or treatment and afraid to participate in contact tracing, because they worry it could have ramifications for their legal status. We want everyone to feel encouraged and supported in getting the care that they need. 

For more information, visit Mass General's Center or Immigrant Health