When former President Donald J. Trump issued an executive order in 2017 banning Muslims from select countries from traveling to the United States, the sweeping decree quickly rippled down to affect health outcomes for Muslim-Americans, Yale researchers say.
A new study by the Yale School of Public Health and partner institutions found that a significant number of people in the Muslim community in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area skipped their primary care appointments after the ban, and there was also an increase in their visits to the emergency department.
The findings, published July 30 in the journal JAMA Network Open, provides evidence that an abrupt change in federal immigration policy can directly affect health outcomes among people residing in the United States legally. The study is one of the first to measure the causal impact of how policy changes such as these may affect Muslim American immigrant and refugee communities.
Before the ban, primary care visits and diagnoses of stress for individuals from Muslim-majority nations were on the rise, the researchers said. In the year following the ban, however, there were approximately 101 missed primary care appointments beyond what would have been expected among people from Muslim majority countries not named in the ban. There were also approximately 232 more emergency department visits by individuals from nations targeted by the ban than would have been predicted.
“This offers support to the thesis that the Islamophobia fostered by former President Trump affected the health of Muslim-Americans in the United States and that immigration policies can have indirect and unexpected consequences for those targeted by such actions,” said Yale School of Public Health Associate Professor Gregg Gonsalves, the study’s senior author.
Trump issued Executive Order 13769, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” shortly after his inauguration to limit the travel of refugees from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan, and Yemen. The ban was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018, only to be revoked by President Joe Biden in January 2021.
For the new study, the researchers examined more than 250,000 adult patients treated at a Minneapolis-St. Paul HealthPartners primary care clinic or in emergency departments in 2016 and 2017. These patients belonged to one of the following three groups: 1) born in a Muslim nation targeted by the ban, 2) born in a Muslim-majority nation not listed in the ban, and 3) non-Hispanic and born in the United States.