Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Immigration and Health in Latinos: How Deportations Are Linked to Child Mental Health Problems

Saturday, November 14, 2015 : 8:50 AM
Stanford (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Edward D. Vargas, University of Wisconsin – Madison and Viridiana Benitez, University of Wisconsin - Madison
As Congress prioritizes the immigration debate on increased border security, the fate of an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants remains uncertain. Latinos, citizen and non-citizen alike, have personal connections to this population. It is estimated that 61 percent of Latinos, regardless of citizenship status, report knowing someone who is undocumented, and 36 percent personally know someone who has been detained and/or deported. These personal connections to undocumented immigrants have been shown to have an impact on the well-being of Latinos.

In this manuscript, we examine how Latino’s personal connections to deportees are linked to their children’s mental health.  Using a groundbreaking survey sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at the University of New Mexico (n=1,493), we asked adults about their connections to undocumented immigrants and deportees. We also asked these adults 1) if their child has ever been referred for testing because of a learning disorder or because he/she could not concentrate, and 2) if their child has ever been diagnosed with a developmental disorder such as ADHD, autism, or language impairment. We estimated a series of logistic regressions to understand how Latino parents’ personal connections to undocumented immigrants and deportees are associated with their child’s mental health outcomes. 

Preliminary findings show that knowing a deportee increases the probability of a child being referred for a learning disorder, holding all else constant.  We also find that knowing a deportee increases the odds of a child being diagnosed for a developmental disorder.  Additionally, the number and types of relationships with deportees matter. Knowing more individuals who have been deported, and having a closer family tie to an individual that has been deported, are both strongly associated with a child being referred and/or diagnosed with mental health problems. Importantly, these effects were present in foreign, native, and mixed-status families. These findings suggest that the personal connections to undocumented immigrants for all Latinos, regardless of citizenship status, affect the well-being of their children. This work has tremendous implications and significance for policy makers, health service providers, and researchers interested in reducing health disparities among minority families.