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Immigration Raids Have Negative Health Effects on Undocumented Latino Community, Says Study

First Posted: Apr 08, 2016 05:22 PM EDT
U.S. Border Patrol immigration immigrants

Photo : John Moore/Getty Images

Immigration raids have brought fear and unrest to undocumented immigrant communities, but a new study finds they may also have devastating medical consequences.

The University of Michigan School of Public Health surveyed 487 Latinos in Washtenaw County between September 2013 and January 2014, a majority of which responded before the immigration raid of a two-story mechanic shop. Researchers found "strong evidence" of negative health effects, thereafter, from individuals less likely to seek government assistance -- medical or otherwise -- and by those suffering physiological and emotional distress.

"Immigration raids, acute evens that may have immediate effects on communities, occur within populations who experience an inequitable need for support services and may thus exacerbate, health inequities," the report read.

"It is critical that researchers continue to investigate the direct effects of immigration enforcement on the individuals who experience it -- such as the depression, anxiety, and trauma engendered by one's arrest, deportation, or witness to a raid."

The majority of respondents, 83.4 percent, were born in Mexico or Central America.

Researchers used three survey measures to capture their day-to-day stress levels: "My legal status has limited my contact with family and friends," "I will be reported to immigration if I got to a social services agency" and "I will fear the consequences of deportation."

Over 55 percent described their health as excellent or very good before the raid, compared to 51 percent after. Women's self-reported health decreased by eight percent.

Fear of Law Enforcement

Three days after the Washtenaw County raid, about 40 community members gathered to discuss the experience.

Women described how officers ordered them to the ground at gunpoint, two who held infants in their arms. They expressed mistrust with local law enforcement and fear that psychological repercussions could manifest in their children.

The study, published in the Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, suggests community health advocates work closely with affected Latino communities, especially with undocumented children associated with higher levels of stress. Children ages 17 or younger reported a drop in self-rated health, from 55.9 percent to 51.4 percent after the raid.

Researched say this is because "members of the community who may already be marginalized and vulnerable -- foreign-born women with children in the home -- may be less likely to seek out [government] services."

Ongoing Raids Nationwide

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) surreptitiously ramped up immigration raid efforts earlier this year, drawing criticism from advocacy groups and left-leaning politicians.

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said deportation raid, dubbed "Operation Border Guardian," solely targeted undocumented adults who arrived after Jan. 1 2014.

In a statement released last month, Johnson said he was working with the Department of Justice to ensure undocumented children receive appropriate representation during immigration hearings. Johnson noted that U.S. Immigration and Customer Enforcement officials arrested 336 individuals this year, up to March 9.

Presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton each called on the Obama administration to end nationwide raids.

In January, Clinton spokesperson Jorge Silva told Latin Post that undocumented families should get refuge upon arrival. He added that the Democratic front-runner also believes in "a longer-term comprehensive solution to the challenge of violence in Central America that causes so many people to make the treacherous journey north."

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