Despite the fast-moving news cycle nowadays, shifting immigration policies and policy guidelines make headlines every week. At the end of one dizzying week that included a serious discussion on the decriminalization of border crossings and a Supreme Court ruling against adding a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. Census, the Supreme Court announced it would hear the Trump administration’s appeal to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) next fall, just in time to issue their ruling the summer before the election. And that was just one week in June.
Dreamers have faced uncertainty about their immigration status since September 2017 when the Trump administration moved to terminate the program and the federal courts took up several lawsuits challenging these actions. Now, new research shows that immigration policy concerns are taking mental tolls on first-generation Latinx (Latino/Latina) adolescents.
Using data from a long-term study of primarily Mexican families living in California’s Salinas Valley region, researchers surveyed 397 sixteen-year-olds with at least one immigrant parent. In the year following the 2016 presidential election, nearly half of the teens reported that they worried about how immigration policies could affect themselves and their families. Compared to before the 2016 election, the teens who worried more about immigration policy also reported an increase in symptoms of anxiety. Particularly among teenage boys, higher anxiety was correlated with poor sleep quality.
As we debate changes to U.S. immigration policy, many immigrant families are having difficult conversations about planning for the worst-case scenario. This research shows that the uncertainty regarding immigration status has effects on mental health in children as well as adults. More studies need to be done to address the long-term health consequences of these policies on immigrant families, both directly and indirectly through their access to healthcare services.