Immigration raids have negative impacts on Latino community, study shows

Wednesday, April 13, 2016 - 12:14pm

Immigration raids conducted by local police, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Border Patrol in recent years have had many mental and physical health effects on Latino family dynamics and the greater community, according to a recent University of Michigan study.

Daniel Kruger, co-author of the study and a research assistant professor in the School of Public Health, said the findings stem from data collected before and after a major immigration raid that happened in November 2013 in Ypsilanti. Local police — accompanied by a SWAT team — as well as ICE were involved in the raid.

Researchers surveyed Ypsilanti residents from September 2013 to January 2014 to assess differences in self-reported health ratings and other health-related criteria before and after the raid.

The surveys asked questions about the effects discrimination has on the Latino community, as well as immigration issues, such as the threat of law enforcement and deportation.

Kruger said the results from before the raid and after had multiple discrepancies in categories like health, which he said showed potential impact from these kinds of events.

“People’s concerns about these immigration law enforcement issues are significantly higher after the raid than before the raid, and what’s even more remarkable is even people’s self-reported health is worse after the raid than before the raid,” he said.

William Lopez, co-author of the paper and a doctoral candidate in School of Public Health, noted that modern-day raids may result in a physiological embodiment of stress, which could then lead to mental and physical consequences like those observed. He cited several possible outcomes from trauma, to nightmares and viewing symbols of law enforcement, such as police cars and officers, in negative ways. Lopez added that children are often especially affected by this since their parents are often separated, such as with men most frequently the ones detained and women left to be responsible for the household while coping with their own trauma.

“The trauma of having weapons pointed at you, being told to get on the floor, agents throwing things around your house — there’s this invasion of personal space that’s very violating, very dehumanizing,” Lopez said.

In turn, he said, these individual impacts affect the community surrounding raided families and individuals.

“This affects the very way that a community stays coherent and interacts with other members of its community,” Lopez said. “Many of these general health behaviors that we want to promote aren’t going to happen when there’s fear of immigration enforcement. It’s individual behaviors in their own neighborhoods but also behaviors from one person to another.”

Kruger agreed and with Lopez, saying the data documents real consequences of raids on the larger community.

“It’s not just an impact on the people who were directly involved and are somehow related or affiliated with the people who were in that building or the ones who were deported, but it has an impact on the entire community,” Kruger said. “Especially in an election year … this is something that we would like to be part of the conversation — the adverse impact that these military-style raids can have on the health of this larger community.”

Laura Sanders, a faculty instructor in the School of Social Work and co-founder of the Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights, became involved with research in this area after WICIR was started eight years ago following an immigration raid in Ypsilanti’s Arbor Meadows neighborhood. She said this study’s findings mirrored prior research.

“The results (of previous research) indicated that there’s a lot of stress and depression, increased likelihood of depression and stress and debilitating worries for children who are experiencing or who are living in this milieu of increased immigration enforcement,” Sanders said.

Sanders also reiterated Kruger’s sentiment, saying there is little basis for the discrimination and marginalization of this population.

She echoed Kruger’s sentiments about the need for data like this to be included in policy discussion, saying raids contribute to the marginalization of the Latino population.

“The idea that this is a community full of criminals is an absolute myth,” Sanders said. “In fact, the incidences of criminalized behavior amongst undocumented immigrants is very low when you look at comparisons. ”