With the Trump administration pursuing new restrictions on immigration and increased immigration enforcement, the political and social climate for immigrant families has changed substantially over the last year. A new Kaiser Family Foundation report based on focus groups with immigrant families and interviews with pediatricians finds that immigrants from a variety of backgrounds report rising fear and anxiety that is affecting their daily lives and routines as well as the health of their children, who are predominantly U.S.-born citizens.
The new report, Living in an Immigrant Family in America: How Fear and Toxic Stress Are Affecting Daily Life, Well-Being, & Health, is based on focus groups conducted in 5 languages with 100 parents in immigrant families from 15 countries, as well as telephone interviews with 13 pediatricians who serve immigrant communities. Focus groups were conducted in eight cities and four states: Chicago, Illinois, Boston, Massachusetts; and Anaheim, Fresno, Los Angeles, Oakland and San Diego, California.
Among the key takeaways from the focus groups:
- Parents and children in families with an undocumented family member fear being separated from each other. Those with lawful status worry about the stability of their status and whether they may lose permission to remain in the U.S. These fears escalated after the rescission of the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protected undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children.
- Parents and pediatricians said that racism and discrimination, including bullying of children have increased.
- Some immigrant families say they are afraid to leave their home, limit their participation in activities, and face increased employment challenges.
- Parents and pediatricians also report negative effects on the health and well-being of children, including problems sleeping, headaches and stomachaches and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, all of which could point to long-term health consequences for children.
A panel of experts discussed the report today at a public briefing held by KFF at its Washington, D.C. offices. An archived webcast of the briefing, as well as copies of presentation slides and other materials, will be available on kff.org later today.