Fear is the emotion most commonly associated with undocumented immigrants living in the United States today. Fear of being discovered during a routine traffic stop or a worksite raid. Fear of being deported and separated from one’s family.
But it turns out that fear is only one part of a complex emotional landscape that immigrants without legal status confront in their daily lives. A recent study of undocumented immigrants from El Salvador and Guatemala found that many “linked the current threats to their families posed by deportation to a history of conflict and terror in their countries of origin.” In other words, they escaped the war at home only to relive their war-related anxieties in the U.S.
The study by the Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Boston College, also discovered that the undocumented immigrants it surveyed reported symptoms including anxiety, weight loss and difficulty sleeping. Their children often had trouble keeping up in school and developing language skills.
The Boston College study is notable, not just for it’s troubling conclusions, but for its place in a large and growing movement by academic researchers. Studying undocumented immigrants — who according to most estimates number around 12-million in the U.S. – has become its own academic specialty.
The interest among researchers was highlighted last weekend as hundreds of professors and students from across the country met on the campus of Connecticut College in New London, Ct. for a conference called Undocumented Hispanic Migration: On the Margins of a Dream. (more…)