Social Rights and Migrant Realities: Migration Policy Reform and Migrants’ Access to Health Care in Costa Rica, Argentina, and Chile

Abstract

Immigration poses a significant challenge to states’ existing social protection systems, especially in developing countries that are already struggling to provide social services for their citizens. In particular, immigration produces a tension between citizenship rights—those extended only to citizens, and social rights—rights extended by the state to others within their national territory. Immigration raises questions not only about the rights and access of migrants to health and other social services but also the level and quality of provisions to citizens. We draw on literatures on welfare regimes in Latin America, welfare magnets, and the legitimacy of social rights to examine the nexus of migration and health care policy in Costa Rica, Argentina, and Chile—three countries that have recently pursued immigration reform. We argue that variation in the extension of immigrants’ social rights to health is explained by the interaction of existing migration and social policies, the nature of the health care system in each country, and, in some cases, international and regional norms.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Costa Rica has not signed the following: (1) the C97 ILO Convention concerning Migration for Employment, of 1949; (2) the C143 ILO Convention concerning Migrations in Abusive Conditions and the Promotion of Equality of Opportunity and Treatment of Migrant Workers, both of 1975; and (3) the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, of 1990 (Bolaños 2009).

  2. 2.

    Though we prefer the term irregular and use it in the paper, in this case we use the term “illegal” because it draws from direct quotes. It is important to accurately report this label as it represents the stigmatization of irregular migrants in Argentina in these documents.

  3. 3.

    While Chile is an Associate Member of MERCOSUR (since 1996), unlike Argentina which is a Full Member, it did sign the above 2002 agreement which guarantees equal treatments of migrants and citizens alike.

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank Neepa Acharya, Eduardo Domenech, Thomas Faist, Juliana Martínez Franzoni, Carolina Stefoni, and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful feedback on previous drafts of this paper. We also thank Danae Gonzales Moya for valuable information about the Chilean Migration Law proposal. The first author received funding for part of this research from the National Science Foundation SES Grant 1029564, while the second acknowledges support received from the ZEIT Stiftung’s Settling into Motion Program.

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Noy, S., Voorend, K. Social Rights and Migrant Realities: Migration Policy Reform and Migrants’ Access to Health Care in Costa Rica, Argentina, and Chile. Int. Migration & Integration 17, 605–629 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12134-015-0416-2

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Keywords

  • Social rights
  • Citizenship rights
  • Access to health
  • Costa Rica
  • Argentina
  • Chile