Deportation Shows Negative Psychological Impact on Families, APA Reports

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(ESPAÑOL) The deportation and forced separation of immigrants has negative effects that extend beyond individuals and families to entire communities in the United States, according to a division of the American Psychological Association, which has issued a policy statement calling for changes to U.S. policy.

Based on a review of the effects of three decades of U.S. immigration policy, the policy statement details the psychosocial and economic impacts of deportation on children and families, as well as broader community consequences that unfold as immigrants fearful of being targeted withdraw from civic engagement.

“This policy brief is a thorough examination of the research,” said Regina Langhout, professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and lead author of the brief by the APA’s Society for Community Research and Action; the policy statement will appear in the upcoming edition of the American Journal of Community Psychology.

Studies reveal that children who lose a parent to sudden, forced deportation experience anxiety, anger, aggression, withdrawal, a heightened sense of fear, eating and sleeping disturbances, isolation, trauma, and depression.

Children also experience housing instability, academic withdrawal, and family dissolution; older children often need to take on jobs to help support the family.

Ten percent of U.S. families with children have at least one family member who lacks citizenship.

5.9 million children have at least one caregiver who lacks authorization to live in the country.

Changes to U.S. immigration policy over the last 30 years have resulted in a massive increase in deportations—and a marked shift away from post-World War II-era policies that focused on family reunification, the authors found.

“If we’re going to have neighborhoods and towns and schools and places where people of all different backgrounds interact, it’s imperative for public health that everybody feels a sense of belonging and connection, a sense of attachment,” said Langhout.