Review of Literature


Immigration is a burden on most people the physical journey from one place to an entirely new place is exhausting. I want to narrow my focus on how immigration affects the mental health of child immigrants. It does not matter whether the migration is legal or illegal it is very hard especially for young children to understand the motivation behind migration and how to cope with the experience of being uprooted, traveling to an extensive journey, and the re assimilation to a new place. The sources that I have found concerning this topic in my paper all address how taken immigration for children is a mental stress or and that most times a child’s behavior is a direct result from experiences that have happened in the most cognitive state which is at a very young age.

Mental health and emotional stability stems from what we learn in our youth and the impact of our parents. Without a strong secure guardian and the inability to learn how to cope we can lose ourselves to depression, anxiety, substance abuse etc. Many immigrant children or the children of undocumented people are constantly at high stress. If they don’t have to cross dangerous borders alone they have to live in fear about their parents being deported. This forces these children into stereotypes that also criminalizes them for something that they are in no control of the Child Care, Health Development documented children of undocumented residents were found to be more depressed and less likely to be maintain relationships with other people.

More that 60,000 children cross the United States border alone and then are criminalized for breaking immigration laws that are beyond their control. My question is how is it fair to deport young immigrants and not facilitating the resources for them to be able to gain care. Without legal representation these children are more likely to be cycled into  foster care where their sense of self security is jeopardizes their communication and social skills. It creates unstable people that end up hurting others and putting future children in the same position as the abandoned youth.  

It is important to consider how many youth are undocumented in America. According to the Pew Center of Research in the journal article Estimates of the Size and Characteristics of the Undocumented Population in 2005 there were about 1.7 million undocumented Latino Youth. The process of calculating the estimated population of undocumented peoples is conducted through subtracting the native population from foreign born people and the use the remaining data to estimate the total number of undocumented immigrants. The use of the methodology of specialized calculations is used because there is no way the Census can truly count the number of undocumented immigrants. Research conducted by the Census shows that immigration has steadily risen from the beginning of the early 2000s. The Pew Center of Research estimates that Mexicans make up the largest group of the undocumented population about 54 percent of undocumented people migrate from Mexico. Another 2.5 million undocumented immigrants are from other Latin American countries. The information on immigration concludes that  one in every six undocumented people are children.


The source from the American Journal of Community Psychology put forth an article by Fabricio Balacazar called Policy Statement on the Incarceration  of Undocumented Migrant Families. Fabricio Balacazar analyzes the Department of Homeland Security’s policy of detaining migrants and their families and those whom cannot attain a bond will not be released. The court has challenged these practices numerous times, and at one point 44 senators of the democratic caucus wrote a letter the the head of Homeland Security pleading to not detain migrant families in extreme situations. Balacazar argues there is no way to humanely detain immigrant families, so the public must urge the government to change its policies and practices. Balacazar makes the point that the psychological affect on undocumented children and their families are extreme. He explains that often times children whose parents are detained and then likely deported experience depression, anxiety, and sometimes post-stress traumatic disorder. Balacazar conducted a study in which he examined 10 undocumented children that had been detained and reported all of them exhibited self-harming behavior, had depression, and major anxiety. The children also reported trouble sleeping, hopelessness, suicidal thoughts as a result of extreme stress.

One of the sources I used in my research paper I used an article from J Immigrant Minority Health titled I Didn’t Ask to Come to this Country…I was a Child: The Mental Health Implications of Growing Up Undocumented by Jeanne-Marie R. Stacciarini. Stacciarini’s paper details the psychological impact that immigration has on children especially those who did not want to immigrate. As a result of immigration, specifically Latino children and adolescents tend to develop depression and anxiety disorders more frequently. Stacciarini describes that school is the only protective environment for undocumented children to be treated as equals . Once they leave the school environment they are subjected to alienation by not being able to transition normally into adulthood. Other disadvantages that undocumented youth are subjected to are the obvious differences in culture such as the difficulty of learning English that objectifies them among their peers. On an individual level undocumented adolescents are subjected to social isolation, depression,and fear.

Daniel Pine and Judith Cohen of the Biological Psychiatry Journal wrote the Trauma in Children and Adolescents: Risk and Treatment of Psychiatric Sequale. Pine and Cohen was originally investigating the impact of terrorism on the mental health of young children. They decided to conduct a study in which they examined different types of stress that caused youth to be more susceptible to anxiety and depressive disorders . Abuse was among the number one stressor that caused victims to feel isolated. It is well known that a large number of immigrants come to states out of refuge among those are children. The emotional impact of persecution pre migration leads to many cases of PTSD. The crossing of the border leaves many children and adults susceptible to violence, rape, abuse, and murder. According to the study this type of abuse has long term affects on youth.

The Crucible published an article about Social Roles, Self Esteem, and Ethnic identity among undocumented youth and the overall impact on how these factors influenced the way way social relationships are formed and the affects on self development. The authors described the difficultly of assimilation into American culture and the conflict with trying to preserve ones native cultural practices and traditions. Immigrant youth are found to be more willing to accept assimilation into America than their parents. Inter familial conflict is thus spurred when the rigidity of cultural practices are put upon youth who are accepting more individualized practices. The wedge between families and youths can cause higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.




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