The Impact of Deportation on Family Members and Communities
By LaQuittis L. – Research Intern
With the development of harsher immigration policies and restrictions, deportation over the past few decades has increased in the U.S. Additionally, prohibitive policies created by legislatures have encouraged antagonistic attitudes towards undocumented immigrants, which places families at higher risk of being separated (Lovato, 2019). Although there are set exemptions, policies under the Immigration and Nationality Act limits exemptions for parents of U.S. citizen children while relatives such as grandparents are ineligible. Many deported individuals are forced to return to dangerous, unstable environments from which they’ve tried to escape. Challenges such as loss of or limited communication have resulted in severed relationships with family members. The impact of separation involves economic hardship, housing instability, and food insecurity, which puts more pressure on the remaining caregiver who’s forced to take on a new role.
What makes the matter worse is that it is typical for the separation of undocumented immigrants to be sudden and unexpected, which produces a negative psychological effect for children and other family members. When families are separated, the children are commonly placed in the child welfare system, and due to lack of communication between agencies, reuniting loved ones becomes difficult. In some cases, the oldest child becomes the primary caregiver to adolescent siblings, impacting school performance and mental health. They are forced to work longer hours to support their family, which can take a toll on their mental health. Children often display behavioral changes after the separation from their parents, such as differences in their sleeping or eating habits, as well as emotional changes such as increased crying, anxiety, fear, anger, aggression, and withdrawal. After their parents’ separation, children’s often exhibit signs of depression, anxiety, and severe psychological distress such as PTSD.
Communities in which these deportations occur are also impacted. In areas where local law enforcement agencies have teamed up with ICE, negative results have been observed. When one person is deported, increased fear and mistrust of public facilities such as clinics, schools, parks, and churches arise within the community. Circumstances such as this will also cause a reduction in participation from immigrants in their communities which may increase their isolation from others. Isolation can then cause immigrants to lose social integration, such as a sense of security and purpose in their community, which again negatively affects their mental health.
Additionally, fear and mistrust towards law enforcement in Latinx communities puts community safety at risk and creates a rift between safety officials and community members. To reduce the psychological effects on children and family members, alternatives to deportation are being considered. To learn more, visit https://www.communitypsychology.com/effects-of-deportation-on-families-communities/ .
Lovato, K. (2019). Forced separations: A qualitative examination of how Latino/a adolescents cope with parental deportation. Children and Youth Services Review, 98, 42-50.
Muller, R. T. (2013, May 18). 403 Forbidden. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/talking-about-trauma/201305/the-traumatic-effects-forced-deportation-families
Simons-Rudolph, A. (2019, October 15). The Effects of Deportation on Families and Communities. Community Psychology: Social Justice Through Collaborative Research and Action. https://www.communitypsychology.com/effects-of-deportation-on-families-communities/