Menu

Search

  |   Insights & Views

Menu

  |   Insights & Views

Search

Are America's deportation laws traumatising immigrants?

0
comments

On February 21 2017, a man committed suicide in Mexico. The 25-year-old had recently been deported from the United States, and he threw himself off a bridge in Tijuana, Baja California, just kilometres from the US border.

His case demonstrates the fearful, precarious existence of Mexican immigrants today as a result of Donald Trump’s severe deportation policies. The looming threat that millions of undocumented immigrants will be arrested and sent back to Mexico can be expected to give rise to mental health challenges in this vulnerable population.

Simply going through the deportation process, which involves being subjected to judicial proceedings, attending hearings, finding and paying a lawyer, and being detained and transported from one detention centre to another until, finally, being expelled from the country, is itself a stressful experience riddled with uncertainty.

Among refugees from conflicts in the Middle East, for example, studies have confirmed that interception and detention activities negatively affect the mental well-being of those targeted by such policies.

Past stress is an underlying reality for deportees. Research on American Latinos shows that fear of deportation, discrimination, language barriers, and immigration status are major daily stressors. The possibility of forced separation from loved ones is another source of profound anxiety (this apprehension was well documented in a recent episode of the US radio show This American Life).

Then there are the criminal networks to which unauthorised migrants are particularly vulnerable on their way in (or out) of the country.

Add in the desperation and frustration of seeing the goal of a new life in one’s host country disappear and the lack of opportunities in the migrant’s country of origin, and the resulting hopelessness can be fatal – as seen in Tijuana last month. Public officials in border areas have warned that they are prepared for “more cases of this nature”.

Seeking a better life

Migrants across the globe, whether legal or unauthorised, are already a vulnerable group. Migration patterns are influenced primarily by social, economic and political factors in migrants’ region of origin.

For refugees from Central America and Mexico “push factors” include crime, poverty and lack of jobs. Most Mexican migrants are men between 20 and 24 years old, but young women are also fleeing the violence that surrounds them.

In general, refugees head to destination countries with which they have positive associations (founded or unfounded) about local values and opportunities. Data from Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography reveal that work, family, studies, and marriage are the main motives driving people to emigrate to the US, host country to 86% of all Mexican migrants.

That is to say, most Mexican migrants who go to the US are seeking to improve their work opportunities and life conditions, and those who risk the journey are, in their majority, young men and women on the cusp of their most productive period in life.

Just how precarious and risky their life in the US will be depends on the migrant’s legal status. But virtually all American immigrants, at one point or another, confront a series of stressors that can directly affect their mental health.

Territorial displacement is itself a stressor. The transition is especially hard if the journey is made in a context of uncertainty and if the migrant has no support system in the host country. Language difficulties, cultural differences, limited formal education, restricted access to services and social isolation are among the other obstacles that can prove daily worries for migrants and their children once they’ve arrived.

The trauma of uncertainty

Those most marginalised run the risk of encountering a range of emotional and psychiatric disorders of varying severity.

Minority groups in the US have been observed to experience “acculturated” stress and dissatisfaction, particularly regarding their housing and neighbourhood. Both phenomena are associated with considerable anxiety, fatigue and depression.

Isolation and stress may also manifest in problematic use of drugs and alcohol, exacerbating existing psychiatric imbalances and causing physical health problems that can decrease migrants’ quality of life.

The specific range of psychosocial problems confronted by migrants have led experts to coin the term “Ulysses Syndrome” – high levels of stress with chronic recurring and unresolved feelings of failure, loneliness, social isolation and, of course, fear of deportation. Physical symptoms may include chronic fatigue, headaches, colitis, nausea, and exhaustion.

The young deportee’s suicide in Tijuana could probably have been prevented with appropriate psychological care. But the precarious existence of many unauthorised migrants in the US makes access to mental health services and treatment a luxury that’s simply out of reach (as, indeed, it is for many poor American citizens).

Both of the Trump administration’s Muslim travel bans have been thus far blocked by US federal courts. But his executive orders ramping up the deportation of Mexicans are already in force – and the destabilisation, menace and stigmatisation that they are enacting upon Latino immigrants is something akin to trauma.

The ConversationAlejandra Rivera does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

  • ET PRO
  • Market Data

Market-moving news and views, 24 hours a day >

September 20 11:00 UTC Released

USMBA 30-Yr Mortgage Rate

Actual

4.04 %

Forecast

Previous

4.03 %

September 20 11:00 UTC Released

USMortgage Refinance Index

Actual

1497.8 %

Forecast

Previous

1636.8 %

September 20 14:00 UTC 5959m

USExisting Home Sales

Actual

Forecast

5.46 Mln

Previous

5.44 Mln

September 20 14:00 UTC 5959m

USExist. Home Sales % Chg

Actual

Forecast

0.3 %

Previous

-1.3 %

September 20 14:30 UTC 8989m

TRCentral Govt Debt Stock*

Actual

Forecast

Previous

817.1 Bln TRY

September 20 15:30 UTC 149149m

BRForeign Exchange Flows*

Actual

Forecast

Previous

-1.251 Bln USD

September 21 08:30 UTC 11691169m

GBPSNB, MM GBP

Actual

Forecast

Previous

-0.76 Bln GBP

September 21 08:30 UTC 11691169m

GBPSNCR, MM GBP

Actual

Forecast

Previous

-3.912 Bln GBP

September 21 08:30 UTC 11691169m

GBPSNB Ex Banks GBP

Actual

Forecast

7.100 Bln GBP

Previous

-0.184 Bln GBP

September 21 12:00 UTC 13791379m

BRIPCA-15 Mid-Month CPI

Actual

Forecast

0.15 %

Previous

0.35 %

Close

Welcome to EconoTimes

Sign up for daily updates for the most important
stories unfolding in the global economy.