A view from the discipline of psychology at https://www.communitypsychology.com/the-effects-of-deportation-on-families-and-communities/
Deportation has numerous detrimental impacts on individuals who are deported, and on the families and communities they are forced to leave behind. This policy statement reviews the empirical literature to describe the effects of deportation on the individual, families, and the broader community, in order to inform policy and practice recommendations.
Deportations have markedly increased in the US in the past three decades, with 340,056 people being deported from the country in 2017 (US Department of Homeland Security, 2017). Most people who are deported have lived in the country for over a decade and many are parents or caregivers of US citizens (Brabeck, Lykes & Hershberg, 2012; Brabeck & Xu, 2010; Dreby, 2012; TRAC Immigration, 2006). Approximately 5.9 million US citizen children have at least one caregiver who does not have authorization to reside in the United States (Mathema, 2017). Immigration policies have moved away from the goal of family reunification, and have the potential to harm US citizen children. For example, the hardship exemption of the Immigration and Nationality Act limits exemptions of deportation to parents, children, and spouses. Consequently, extended family caregivers, such as grandparents, are ineligible for the exemption in spite of any undue hardship caused to their US citizen family members from their deportation (Zug, 2009).
The effects of deportation are felt by individuals, families, and communities. Nearly 4 in 5 families screened in family detention centers have a “credible fear” of persecution should they be forced to return to the countries from which they migrated (US Citizenship and Immigration Services, 2016). Many of those deported are forced to return to dangerous, turbulent environments, and deportations have resulted in kidnapping, torture, rape, and murder (Stillman, 2018). Deported individuals often find it challenging to support their families, and coupled with the trauma and stigma of the deportation, may find it difficult to maintain contact with family members; this often leads to severed relationships (Dreby, 2012; Hagan, Castro, & Rodriguez, 2010; Zayas & Bradlee, 2014).
Family members left behind suffer multiple psychosocial consequences. Separation of a child from a parent due to deportation is associated with economic hardship, housing instability, and food insecurity (Capps et al., 2015; Chaudhary et al., 2010; Dreby, 2012). Family members are often forced to take on new roles to make ends meet: the remaining caregiver(s) must often work longer hours, leaving little time for contact with children; older children often become primary caregivers of younger siblings and/or must work to support the family, impacting school performance and retention (Chaudhary et al., 2010; Dreby, 2012). Following deportation of a family member, children demonstrate numerous emotional and behavioral challenges, such as eating and sleeping changes, anxiety, sadness, anger, and withdrawal. Even if the family is ultimately reunited, the consequences of their forced family separation often remain (Brabeck et al, 2012; Dreby, 2012; Hagan et al. 2010).
Moreover, the broader community suffers negative consequences of deportation regardless of first-hand experience. Following immigration raids and deportations, community members are often more fearful and mistrustful of public institutions, and less likely to participate in churches, schools, health clinics, cultural activities, and social services (Capps, Rosenblum, Chishti, & Rodríguez, 2011; Hagan et al., 2010; Hagan, Rodriguez, & Castro, 2011; Vargas, 2015). Studies have also demonstrated that immigrant adults are emotionally taxed following deportations and the threat of deportations in their communities; associated anxiety and psychological stress has been linked to cardiovascular risk factors (Brabeck et al, 2012; Martinez, Ruelas, & Granger, 2017; Torres et al., 2018). Immigrant children living in communities where immigration raids have taken place feel abandoned, isolated, fearful, traumatized, and depressed (Capps, Castañeda, Chaudry, & Santos, 2007). Moreover, children – regardless of immigration status – experience fear and shame regarding deportation, which impacts their sense of self and wellbeing (Dreby, 2012).
In order to assuage the myriad devastating consequences of deportation on individuals, families, and communities, the US should make policy and practice changes. Federal immigration policies should keep families together through comprehensive immigration reform that ends the threat of deportation and bolsters hardship exemptions for all family members. Local communities should prioritize safety and inclusion for all families, regardless of immigration status, by developing programs to foster support networks, sense of belonging, mental health/healing, building community, and collective political action, as these types of programs foster hope and wellness for children and families.