Abstract: Fear of Deportation and the Mental Health of Latino Immigrants (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

502P Fear of Deportation and the Mental Health of Latino Immigrants

Saturday, January 18, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Brenda Morales, MSW, Student, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Background/ Purpose: Due to the political climate in the United States and recent happenings (i.e. proposal building a U.S.-Mexico wall and proposal of ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program) that affect the undocumented community, there might be fear of deportation growing. Anti-immigrant sentiment may put undocumented immigrants at risk for discriminant and negative experiences. To add to the multiple problems (i.e. low SES, language barriers, ineligibility of healthcare) undocumented immigrants face, mass deportations also place families in a vulnerable position when they are separated. Detention and deportation has harmful effects on the mental health of detainees and their families. However. there is no research on undocumented individuals that might not be necessarily be placed in detention. Therefore, this pilot study’s aim is to examine the fear of deportation and perceived discrimination in relation to the mental health of undocumented immigrants.

Methods: This pilot study was cross-sectional using a field research methodology. The General Anxiety Scale and the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D-10) were administered in Spanish. Fear of deportation and perceived discrimination were measured on a 20- item, 5-point likert-scale on situations that may cause no stress (0) to extreme stress (4). A non-probability, convenience community sample of Latino immigrant adults (n=123) was recruited in a low-income, predominately Hispanic neighborhood. Nearly 60% of the sample identified as undocumented. Most of the participants were born in Mexico (48%), Guatemala (30%) and El Salvador (14%); with 54% of participants reporting an educational level below a high school diploma. The data for this study were from a non-probability sample, therefore the data were not normally distributed. The analyses used the bootstrapping method in order to correct for this bias and address the issue of a non-normal distribution. The study analyzed the relationship of participant’s level of fear of deportation and the impact it has on their daily lives by measuring their anxiety and depressive symptoms. T-tests and linear regression models were used.

Results: The results indicated that participants with a greater fear of deportation were significantly more likely to report higher symptoms of depressive symptoms. The results indicated that reported symptoms of anxiety were not significant within the overall sample. Women, regardless of documentation status were more likely to report greater fear of deportation and also more likely to report higher symptoms of anxiety and depression. Men, regardless of documentation status were less likely to report fear of deportation. The results indicated that men’s depressive and anxiety symptoms were not significant.

Implications: The findings suggest that it is critical that mental health experts, healthcare professionals, social workers, and policy makers work together to address the needs of the immigrant population. More research needs to be done on the long-term health implications fear of deportation has on immigrant families. Future research should further examine the emotional and mental health needs of Latino immigrant families and their children. The information from this pilot study can be used to develop culturally appropriate interventions to work with Latino immigrants and Latino immigrant communities.