With the growing immigrations to the United States, the number of children of immigrants in the country have also been increasing2. Such population may face numerous mental health issues associated with the process of acculturation (changes in cultural practice and values)2 and threats such as deportation1. How should psychological consequences of immigrants under these conditions be addressed?
Family separation is a common fear especially among families of mixed-status in which at least one member is unauthorized, as they are under constant threat of deportation1. Deportation has numerous negative impacts especially for children, such as the vulnerability of unauthorized status and anxiety under deportation threat, and the detrimental psychological short- and long-term effects when deportation occurs1. Children constantly worry and fear that their parents could be taken away from them any day, displaying the ongoing anxiety and trauma. Under these kinds of conditions, immigrants affected may need considerable mental health support. While mental health institutions may be of great help, immigrants often fail to receive such vital mental resources2. They face barriers to mental health services due to cultural differences, limited access to suitable resources, and culturally insensitive clinicians2. Impacts of deportation on children are made worse by the limited availability of mental health services. How then, should immigrants having mental health issues due to threats such as deportation be helped?
Deportations are usually sudden, as families are not informed before a member is suddenly taken away1. This is a major source of the psychological effects of deportation, as the abruptness leads to families unable to see each other and be prepared prior to the event1. The sudden disappearance of parents can be traumatic and leave children in confusion1. Children are left unknown of and question what happened, and may have thoughts such as thinking the parent is hiding from them. A possible way to mitigate the effects of deportation then is to address its abruptness. If an immigrant is about to be deported, it may be better for the family to be informed timely, so they could be prepared and know what to expect. This is crucial especially since children would be losing a parent. In addition, if detention is involved, detained individuals should also be treated with better care, as detained immigrants have been found to be treated unfairly with no proper mental health resources1. Mental health services could also provide support by understanding the severity in the processes of deportation and detention. Awareness of immigrants’ backgrounds may be crucial in delivering proper mental health support for immigrants. It has been suggested that the best way to provide proper treatment is to gain understanding of cultural differences and be more culturally sensitive and responsive2. Understanding immigrants’ experiences and having good communication with them is crucial for clinicians to help immigrants2.
Due to the issues of deportation and poor mental health resources, immigrants struggle as they are unable to receive support for their mental health. However, this conflict may be alleviated by adjusting deportation procedures and have culturally sensitive services. Overall, the best way to help immigrants is to be properly informed and educated about their backgrounds, especially regarding deportation and cultural differences. By understanding their experiences, optimal accommodations can be made to provide the best mental health support. Especially for children, who face outcomes such as separation from parent, knowing their conflicts is important.
- Brabeck, K. M., Lykes, M. B., & Hunter, C. (2014). The psychosocial impact of detention and deportation on U.S. migrant children and families. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 84(5), 496–505. https://doi.org/10.1037/ort0000011
- APA Presidential Taskforce on Immigration (2013). Working with immigrant-origin clients: An update for mental health professionals.