Immigration discourse has been contentious for several years. I would argue several generations. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been given a renewed license to operate unchecked since President 45 (known as Cheeto in Chief amongst my friends) has entered the Oval Office.
The uneasy feeling that comes from these raids oddly resonates with me and is reminiscent of the Immigration and Naturalization Service raids (INS, a precursor to ICE) in the Yakima Valley in the 1980s.
The Yakima Valley saw an uptick in INS activity at work sites and public places that were known to be where Mexicans congregated. I recall many friends who were from mixed-status families who had a litany of concerns and anxiety around the raids. Many of us were afraid that our parents would not make it home, or that family members would disappear suddenly.
Several years since, I still wonder what the psychological toll was from INS raids in the community. I am sure that many of my peers still have a lot of residual PTSD that we have yet to resolve.
I imagine many children of undocumented parents are still struggling with these issues. It’s only a matter of time before we understand the full effect that these harsh policies have on young peoples’ psychological health.
According to a Pew Research Center Report from 2014, an estimated 4 million unauthorized immigrant parents, approximately 38 percent of the unauthorized immigrant population, lived with their U.S.-born children in 2012. Of the mentioned population, an estimated three-quarters had lived in the U.S. for more than 10 years.
A report for the Inter-American Human Rights Court suggests that vulnerability to ICE raids often leads to increased stress in families. The enforcement-oriented policies of Immigrant Detention and Deportation has had an adverse impact on children, their families (e.g., trauma of sudden family separation, instability, economic cost, stigma, depression, anxiety, etc.), and the communities in which immigration raids happened.
In addition, the social and economic marginalization of undocumented parents forces families to suffer through resource scarcity. A report by the American Psychological Association notes that many U.S.-born children of immigrants often live in poverty, are prone to discrimination, and usually witness their own parents’ emotional distress and difficulty in maintaining physical and mental health.
It is for these reasons that it was problematic that the state Department of Licensing (DOL) shared information with ICE. In fact, it was DOL assistance that led to ICE harassing Maru Mora Villalpando from Northwest Detention Center Resistance. It’s clear that the issue of draconian enforcement doesn’t only impact those who are directly targeted. It also impacts the mental health of friends, family, relatives, coworkers and neighbors of those afflicted. We must do better.
Oscar Rosales grew up in the Yakima Valley and works and resides in Seattle. He has previously contributed to HistoryLink.org and the Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project.
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