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Mental Health: After Parents' Deportation, U.S.-born Children Suffer in Silence

Mental Health: After Parents' Deportation, U.S.-born Children Suffer in Silence

Picture of Anthony Advincula

NEW YORK — Almost every day an immigrant father, a mother or both are getting deported. As the deportation rate has been in record numbers, the number of children who have been left behind in the United States also continues to rise.

While the consequences of their parents’ deportation — children get adopted, end up in foster homes, or become vulnerable to child labor— have been widely covered, the effects on their mental health remain underreported. Few, if any, news outlets have also looked closely at the supportive and interpretive roles that physicians, medical practitioners and health providers can play in no small measure for the best interest and welfare of these children.

With my National Health Journalism Fellowship, I will look into the plight of these children (many who are now adults), dealing with trauma, chronic illness, and depression — and tell their stories. Their parental separations were forced, not the result of deaths, for which there are traditions and customs that can help them deal with their losses. For them, instead, their separations are a continuing process filled with uncertainty. They do not even know whether there’s closure.

According to a recent Pew Research Center study, the number of children who are lawfully present in the country —both U.S. citizens and permanent residents — with one or both parents are undocumented has escalated dramatically from 2.7 million in 2003 to 4 million in 2008. From July 2010 to October 2012, more than 200,000 parents with children who are U.S. citizens, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) report to Congress found, were deported.

Most of the reports about the mental health of U.S. born children lef behind by deported parents are anecdotal, but the University of Texas at Austin, the University of California-Davis Health System and the National Institute of Psychiatry in Mexico announced recently about a first-of-its-kind study that they are collaboratively working on the mental effects of the Mexican parents’ deportation on their U.S.-born children. Also, as the new comprehensive immigration bill has just moved to Congress, and the Affordable Care Act will take effect next year, there’s nothing more timely and crucial than exploring this issue that intersects health, policy and immigration.

I will keep you in the loop! 




The Center for Health Journalism’s two-day symposium on domestic violence will provide reporters with a roadmap for covering this public health epidemic with nuance and sensitivity. The first day will take place on the USC campus on Friday, March 17. The Center has a limited number of $300 travel stipends for California journalists coming from outside Southern California and a limited number of $500 travel stipends for those coming from out of state. Journalists attending the symposium will be eligible to apply for a reporting grant of $2,000 to $10,000 from our Domestic Violence Impact Reporting Fund. Find more info here!


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