Fear of Deportation Causes Mental, Health Issues in Immigrants and U.S. Citizens, Officials at SMU Panel Say

UNIVERSITY PARK — The fear of deportation affects not only the mental and physical health of Latinos living in the U.S. illegally, but it also affects their U.S.-born family members. And while these Latinos may admit they need to seek a health professional, many will be hesitant to get help for their mental and physical health issues, said Edward D. Vargas, assistant professor for the School of Transborder Studies at Arizona State University. "I think the idea of the paradigm has shifted that not only immigrants are being impacted by anti-immigrant legislation, but it's having spillover effects to non-immigrant U.S. citizens," Vargas said. Vargas, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and University of Texas Southwestern clinical practice manager Daffodil Baez spoke to a room full of elected officials, educators, students and health professionals at The Status of Latino Health in a Shifting Political Landscape forum Tuesday afternoon at Southern Methodist University. The forum, hosted by the Latino Center for Leadership Development and John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies, addressed how recent immigration policy has affected the health of Latinos living in the U.S.Jenkins said the health of U.S.-born Latino children is also affected when their parents opt out of enrolling for health insurance. He said many times immigrant parents do not know they qualify for federal programs or are scared that enrolling in these programs may get them in trouble with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. "We saw a drop of nearly 10,000 people that have dropped off health insurance in Dallas alone," Jenkins said. "There is so much fear and so much information among Hispanics." Jenkins said parents can apply for federal programs such as CHIP, SNAP and WIC if their children are U.S. citizens, despite what their legal U.S. status may be. The stress and anxiety cause by the fear of being deported can also affect family and romantic relationships in the Latino community, Vargas said. This uncertainty affects how family members function at home and whether couples stay together."More people are likely to say that they are worried that their romantic partner may be deported, and that has implications for health," he said.And U.S.-born children often pick up on this stress within the family, he said. "Parents are reporting that children are having issues concentrating, having issues with attention and learning," Vargas said. "This is an alarming statistic that shows the kids are also feeling the stress that their parents are going through." Baez said the mental health issues among U.S.-born children caused by the stress of their parents or other family members living in the U.S. illegally can often lead to other health issues. She said stress causes the body to release chemicals that can cause inflammation and can later lead to diseases such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease and cancer. Prevention starts by addressing socioeconomic factors that cause this stress, she said. "You have these kids in these mixed-status families who know that something is wrong, and that's going to affect them," Baez said. "Even if the effect may not play out immediately when they are in middle school or high school, physiologically as adults that stress will show up."  Continue reading...

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