Over the past decade, the Latino/a population in the United States has increased, and Latinos now account for a large sector in the total U.S. population. Immigration is a major source for this influx and has been largely motivated by immigrants who want to escape violence, war and poverty from countries such as Honduras, Mexico and El Salvador. As Latino immigrants come to the United States, some are able to apply for paths towards citizenship, while many remain with undocumented status. Having undocumented status prevents many individuals from finding stable work or having access to other state resources. Yet despite the legal barriers and stresses of acculturation, many are able to settle into the United States and form families. It is estimated that 20% of children in the United States are growing up in immigrant homes (Suarez-Orozco, Todorova & Louie, 2002). The immigrant families in the United States are evolving and generating what we know as “mixed-status” families. Mixed-status families refer to those who have individual family members with different legal statuses. A common example is a family where both parents are undocumented immigrants and the child is born a United States citizen.
With the rise in immigration enforcement, these families experience many risks and face unique circumstances. Mixed-status families face daily fear of ICE raids, economic hardship and acculturative stress. They are also vulnerable to deportation and unprecedented separations where families are torn apart abruptly, leaving U.S. born children in a state of limbo. The deportation of a parent can bring on emotions of grief, rejection and abandonment as well alter attachment styles. These effects brought on by the forced separation shape the way children relate to others and may also impact how they perceive intimate relationships as adults. Many adult children of deported parents report feelings of shame, fear and an inability to trust others when reflecting on their experience (Espinoza, 2015).
The family shift that deportation triggers can have a long-standing impact on an individual’s emotional and psychological development. As we strive to be culturally sensitive clinicians, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves with the unique needs of this population. By attending the workshop “Working with Individuals and Families Impacted by Deportation.” at AAMFT 2016, mental health professionals will be given the opportunity to acquire skills in treating individuals and families impacted by deportation. Participants will learn how to apply culturally sensitive interventions for this group as well as learn how to engage these marginalized families in order to provide effective treatment.
» Choose session 505 Working with Individuals and Families Impacted by Deportation during registration, or if you are already registered for AAMFT16, call us at 703-838-9808 to change your session.
Sandra Espinoza is a Visiting Assistant Professor for the Couple and Family Therapy program at Alliant International University, Los Angeles. She holds a Psy.D. in Couple and Family Therapy from Alliant University and has years of experience working in community mental health treating the Latino population. She focuses her research on issues of immigration, deportation and the impact these systems have on mental health and attachment styles.