A new study from the Journal of Adolescent Health finds that the consistent targeting and deporting of immigrants under the Trump administration is causing high levels of stress for Latino parents — even those who are U.S. citizens. In fact, the majority of parents surveyed were legally protected from deportation but said the government’s aggressive immigration policies (including deporting parents) still make them afraid that they could be separated from their families.
The study was conducted last fall when researchers at George Washington University surveyed over 200 hundred Latino parents living in “a largely Latino suburban community” near Washington D.C. According to the survey, only a third of the included were undocumented immigrants, while the rest were either U.S. citizens, permanent U.S. residents, or temporarily protected by programs such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Two-thirds of the parents who were interviewed had been living in the U.S. for 15 years or more.
Despite the majority of the respondents being legally protected, two-thirds reported that they are ‘very’ worried about being separated from their families due to immigration policies. Additionally, nearly half of the parents interviewed admitted that they had talked to their children about their behavior, including where they spend their free time and how to avoid talking to police or other authority figures whenever possible.
“We weren’t surprised that there were harmful impacts of the immigration climate on undocumented parents, but we were very struck by the negative impacts on Latino parents living in the U.S. legally,” lead author and public health researcher Kathleen Roche told Gizmodo.
Roche explained that the unusually high level of stress and anxiety being experienced by Latino parents is surely having an effect on their children as well.
“We know from prior research that teenagers whose parents suffer from mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, are at much greater risk of themselves not doing well in school, engaging in substance use, and having their own mental health problems,” she said. “And the risks these youths are facing are not only going to derail their own future pathways, but they will also come at a very high cost to society.”