DACA turns five. Trump rolls back DAPA. Separation anxiety heightens.

Thursday June 15, 2017 marked the 5th Anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival’s program, commonly known as DACA. On that same day the Trump administration announced that it was rescinding the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA).

DACA families have been on edge for the past couple of months as a result of Trump’s immigration policies. Needless to say that despite Trump stating that DACA program members “shouldn’t be very worried”, the recent deportations and DAPA roll back raises some skepticism.

Just this February, Juan Montes a DACA program member was deported to Mexico within three hours for failing to show a U.S. border protection officer his ID or proof of his status as he had left his wallet in his friend’s car. He is the first of the DACA community to be deported under the Trump administration despite the fact that he was subject to immigration protection under DACA.

For many DREAMERS and other undocumented people, moving to the United States was a step towards a better future for them and their families. As a result, the idea of being abruptly deported even when under a program that is supposed to protect them challenges their livelihood.

Beyond economics, Trump’s hostile immigration policies have raised mental health concerns in immigrant families more than ever before. Immigrant Families especially those with kids are experiencing heightened levels of stress and separation anxiety. Cities like Seattle have offered legal assistance and passed bills protecting undocumented immigrants, however, that is not the norm across the board.

Psychological distress amongst immigrant families—undocumented, mixed status and even valid visa holder, has been on an all time high. When the DACA program was first implemented studies had shown a 40% decrease in rates of moderate to severe psychological distress among eligible individuals. As of late, In States like California (that has the highest undocumented population), “children of undocumented parents showed significantly higher risks of internalized behavioral problems”.

There is an obvious need for mental health support for those individuals and their families that are in fear of deportation, however, recent findings have shown that immigrants have grown weary that their interactions with the health system and health professionals would put them at greater risk for deportation. Adding to that is the preexisting stigma around mental health issues in immigrant families that pushes many people to opt to “cope in silence”, mainly because they are already battling multiple cultural expectations and barriers.

So there are two calls for actions here; the first is to address the longstanding, multidimensional and intersectional issue of stigma around mental health issues in immigrant families and the second is urge health practitioners to foster an environment that does not punish individuals for receiving mental health care.

Needless to say that these issues are quite complex and cannot be remediated overnight but effectively addressing them is long overdue. The current situation in the U.S. is especially challenging because of the unpredictability of the Trump administration, paired with the preexisting fear of deportation in undocumented and mixed status immigrant families. But at this point what choice do we have but to accept the challenge?

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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