Anti-immigration laws, coupled with the repeal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), have negative public health implications for undocumented Latino immigrant youth, according to results presented at the American Public Health Association 2018 Annual Meeting and Expo, held November 10 to 14 in San Diego, California.
These negative effects on public health stem from limited access to education and include higher percentages of tobacco and alcohol use, higher rates of stress-induced chronic disease, and a decrease in the use of health and human services.
The researchers conducted 5 focus groups in San Mateo County, with 3 objectives: to better understand undocumented immigrants’ feelings around the fear of deportation, to identify strategies that can lessen negative effects, and to develop recommendations to help support undocumented immigrants. The researchers also conducted interviews with 6 key informants and 8 healthcare providers.
Of 55 participants, 80% self-identified as undocumented or preferred not to report their status.
The researchers found that participants noted signs of depression and anxiety in children and young adults. Particularly, participants expressed concern for older children who once qualified for DACA: these children now reported feelings of hopelessness and lower self-esteem.
The results of the study indicated that undocumented immigrant children sometimes refuse to continue seeking an education, fearing deportation and threats against the Latino community.
To mitigate the negative effects of the political climate on this community, participants expressed a need to increase awareness about health implications, offer practical support systems, and pass local policies that protect all residents, including undocumented immigrants.
“The research highlights the need to study the impact of DACA and immigration enforcement in relation to stress levels, including mental health and chronic disease,” lead study author Mayra Diaz, MPH, from the San Mateo County Health System, Belmont, California, said. “It will be critical to look into areas of outreach for access to public, health, and social services.”
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Diaz M, Reyes K, Cabuslay E. Undocumented immigrant youth are denied equitable access to higher education, a barrier to better long-term health outcomes. Presented at: American Public Health Association 2018 Annual Meeting and Expo; November 10-14, 2018; San Diego, CA. Abstract 3026.0.