The Physical Health and Mental Well-Being of Immigrants

  • David A. Gerber
  • Alan M. Kraut


Throughout human history, communities have feared the stranger. One ofthe principal concerns has been that when newcomers arrive in a community, they sometimes bring with them dangerous baggage—diseases that weaken and, at times, kill their hosts. Beginning in the Middle Ages, communities protected the health of their inhabitants by quarantining new arrivals and travelers who had ventured abroad before allowing them to enter the community. American colonial communities had quarantine laws that became state laws after the United States became an independent nation. Still, foreigners were often stigmatized as disease carriers, especially when their arrival was coincident with an epidemic of a particular disease. In 1832, New Yorkers blamed a deadly cholera epidemic on the Irish Catholic population that comprised an underclass in antebellum NewYork and many other cities. As recently as the 1980s, lack of understanding of HIV/AIDS resulted in the stigmatizing of Haitians immigrants in the belief they were responsible for bringing the disease to the cities of North America.


Southern Province Immigrant Patient Italian Physician Polio Case Patron Saint 
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Suggestions for Further Reading

  1. Amy L. Fairchild, Science at the Borders, Immigrant Medical Inspection and the Shaping of the Modern Labor Force (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003).Google Scholar
  2. Anne Fadiman, The Sprit Catches you and your Fall Down, a Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Siroux, 1997).Google Scholar
  3. Gerald N. Grob, The Deadly Truth, A History of Disease in America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002).Google Scholar
  4. Howard Markel, Quarantine!, East European Jewish Immigrants and the New York City Epidemics of 1892 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997).Google Scholar
  5. Howard Markel, When Germs Travel, Six Major Epidemics That Have Invaded America Since 1900 and the Fears They Have Unleashed (New York:Alfred A. Knopf, 2004).Google Scholar
  6. Nayan Shah, Contagious Divides, Epidemics and Race in San Francisco’s Chinatown (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David A. Gerber and Alan M. Kraut 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • David A. Gerber
  • Alan M. Kraut

There are no affiliations available

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