Is Immigration Enforcement Bad for Your Mental Health?



In a recent survey of Latino students, more than half said they suffered from anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression.

Why? La migra!

Broadly asserting that “immigration enforcement has generated fear in immigrant communities across the country,” the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) pointed to mental and emotional concerns voiced by young Hispanics in Harris County, Texas, and Rhode Island.

“Self-assessments completed by Latino students and semi-structured interviews with education professionals and community experts” purport to show a majority feared someone close to them could be arrested and deported.

(The MPI paper does not specify the immigration status of the respondents. But it follows other anecdotal accounts detailing the supposedly fragile psychological state of immigrants anxious about the application of immigration law.)

While their feelings make for interesting reading, stressful claims by teenagers should be put in context with the actual, sometimes-deadly consequences of trying to enter this country illegally.

Talk about depressing.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reports that despite the COVID-19 pandemic and related travel restrictions, human smugglers continue to endanger migrants.

“Smugglers expose migrants to the deadly virus by forcing them to travel inside crowded trailers, with no ventilation, no water and no food for hours, even days. The tractor-trailer is the final trap of their treacherous journey,” CBP said last month.

In fiscal year 2020 through August, Border Patrol agents in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley and Laredo sectors reported more than 226 tractor-trailer apprehensions involving 3,740 migrants. For Laredo, the human cargo count was up 37 percent over last year.

Beyond the raw numbers are documented atrocities – sexual abuse, extortion, assault, kidnapping and exploitation at the hands of human smugglers who get upwards of $12,000 per migrant.

“Smuggling is a multibillion-dollar industry that only enriches criminal organizations,” said Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan. “After extracting every dollar they can, they are indifferent to your removal from the United States, but they hope you come back to provide another paycheck.”

MPI doesn’t help by presenting “semi-structured” (read: leading) interviews as serious, objective research. Intimating that legitimate law-enforcement operations are akin to the Gestapo rounding up people in the middle of the night only serves to whip up more hysteria. Then again that may be just the point.

About Author

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Bob Dane, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)'s Executive Director, has been with FAIR since 2006. His deep belief is that immigration is the most transformational determinant of where we are heading as a nation and that our policies must be reformed in the public interest. Over many years on thousands of radio, TV and print interviews, Bob has made the case that unless immigration is regulated and sensibly reduced, it will be difficult for America to reduce unemployment, increase wages, improve health care and education and heighten national security. Prior to joining FAIR, Bob spent twenty years in network radio, marketing and communications after an earlier career in policy and budgeting within the Reagan Administration. Bob has a degree from George Mason University in Public Administration and Management.

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