AAI Attends ACCESS Hill Briefing on Social Services for Arab Americans

Posted by Guest on February 13, 2019 in Blog

By Ian Tennison

Last week ACCESS (Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services) held a policy briefing about educational and healthcare needs of immigrant communities on Capitol Hill. As the largest Arab American social services agency in the United States, ACCESS is one of Michigan’s largest direct service providers. 

The briefing consisted of two panels. The first addressed the critical importance of quality education, out-of-school programs in academic, social, and emotional development of immigrant youth. The featured panelists included ACCESS’s Anisa Sahoubah and Rima Meroueh, Margie McHugh from the Migration Policy Institute, and Hannah Matthews from the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP). Each panelist stressed the significance of these social services, especially for children who have had limited access to them.  

The second panel discussed the lack of access to quality and affordable healthcare, education, and early child care for Arab Americans and marginalized communities across the United States. Each panelist holds a key role in the fight for a more equitable healthcare system. Brenda Abdelall of Bridge Strategies moderated the panel discussion, which also featured Farah Erzouki of ACCESS, Amina Ferati of the Asian & Pacific Islander American (APIA) Health Forum, and Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, who was instrumental in exposing the Flint water crisis. Each panelist is a leader in improving access to healthcare in Arab American, low-income, and immigrant communities.  

A central theme of the day’s events was that immigrant and minority families are often denied the essential services due to discriminatory or neglectful policies. For example, the Trump Administration’s proposed changes to the “public charge” rule, on which AAI sent a public comment, would make immigration to the United States even more difficult. This proposed changes would essentially lessen the chance of those with medical conditions, disabilities, and low incomes to be deemed admissible to the United States. The Center for American Progress states that policies such as the these could “increase fear, confusion, and stigma about health, nutrition, and other public services among people in immigrant families,” including U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. This “chilling effect” could further restrict access to important services in the communities that need them most.  

Families depend on many interconnected factors, such as access to quality and affordable healthcare, education, and early childcare. Groups like ACCESS are leading the fight for fairness, equality and opportunity in all communities. 


Ian Tennison is a 2019 Spring Intern at the Arab American Institute.