The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of current immigration policies on Latinos living in the U.S. Since September 11, 2001, U.S. immigration policies have led to criminalization of immigration enforcement, which has caused Latinos to be particularly vulnerable to U.S. immigration policies and discrimination (Hernandez, 2005). Though many post-9/11 policies were intended to secure America's borders from terrorist threats, many Latinos, both documented and undocumented, have been negatively impacted by the new enforcement of immigration policies. Previous studies have found that lower levels of hope and optimism (Hinds, 1998; Yarcheski et al., 1994) and higher levels of perceived discrimination negatively impact health, especially when combined with fear of deportation due to immigration status (Finch & Vega, 2003).
This study hypothesized that greater perceived discrimination, as a result of the anti-immigrant climate and policies, would result in greater fear of deportation and less optimism for Latinos living in the U.S.
Data for this study were drawn from the 2007 Pew Hispanic Center survey of a disproportionate stratified RDD sample of 2,000 Latino adults living in the U.S. The sample consisted of 1,312 (65.6%) foreign born Latinos and 684 (34.3%) U.S. born Latinos; 1,053 (52.7%) males and 947 (47.4%) females, with a mean age of 42; over 60% of the participants had a high school diploma/GED or higher; and the mean annual income was almost $25,000. Perceived discrimination was a scale composed of 3 items (á= .76). The dependent variables in this study focused on participants' perceptions of the impact of U.S. immigration policies on quality of life, the future of Latino children in the U.S., and fear of deportation. Multivariate OLS linear regressions examined the relationship between perceived discrimination as a result of U.S. immigration policies, (controlling for gender, age, income, generational status, U.S. citizenship, years in the U.S., linguistic acculturation, and education) and participants' perceptions of quality of life for themselves and others, hope for the future of Latino children, and fear of deportation.
The results of this study indicated that participants who had higher levels of perceived discrimination also perceived 1) a lower quality of life for themselves; 2) life was more difficult now for Latinos than in the past; 3) the lives of Latino children will be worse in the future; and 4) higher levels of fear of deportation for themselves or a loved one.
Lack of hope (Hinds, 1998; Yarcheski et al., 1994) and perceived discrimination (Finch & Vega, 2003) negatively impact health. The results of this study suggest Latinos in the U.S. may be at an increased risk for negative health outcomes. Social work practitioners must recognize that perceived discrimination and fear of deportation may cause Latinos in need of social services to avoid seeking care from community and social service agencies. To address these concerns, social workers can increase culturally competent outreach efforts and improve service provision specific to Latinos living in the U.S.