Immigration Enforcement and the Mental Health of Latino High School Students

Randy Capps, Jodi Berger Cardoso, Kalina Brabeck, Michael Fix and Ariel G. Ruiz Soto
Date of Publication: 
September, 2020
Source Organization: 
Migration Policy Institute

This study examines the mental health toll on Latino teenagers arising from the deportation activities of the Trump administration. The authors also present the findings of a survey of Latino students at five high schools in Harris County, Texas, and six high schools in four Rhode Island cities, conducted during the 2018–19 school year. While actual deportation numbers under President Trump never reached the peak of the Bush and Obama years, ICE arrests have remained very high over the last years, increasing levels of anxiety and fear among Latino teenagers. The authors found that the majority of respondents (59 percent) feared someone close to them would be arrested and deported, one-third feared that they themselves would be deported, and 56 percent personally knew someone who had been deported. These fears of deportation were lower but still high in jurisdictions which have tried to limit ICE activities, like the state of Rhode Island, where 30 percent of Latino teenagers reported changing their behavior, e.g. avoiding driving or going to the doctor, as a result of deportation fears. Findings from both the Texas and Rhode Island surveys also show downstream health effects of deportation fears and the anxiety caused by Trump administration policies restricting immigration. Most troubling, reports of discrimination, traumatic life events, and averse mental health conditions such as PTSD, depression or anxiety were experienced in an alarming number of teenager respondents. Teens compensated for these averse health indicators with high levels of reported personal goals, spiritual and school engagement, and family support. Many schools have tried to mitigate the deportation anxieties with safe haven measures, but school funding and staffing resources are highly limited to meet the enormous needs. Shifting the current political environment would help ease much of the deportation fears and anxieties in Latino teenagers, as well as bolstering support networks within the schools and communities to assist in providing more robust mental health services. (Julianne P. Weis, Ph.D.)

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Capps, R., Cardoso, J., Brabeck, K., Fix, M., & Soto, A. (2020, September). Immigration Enforcement and the Mental Health of Latino High School Students. Migration Policy Institute.