Living in an Immigrant Family in America: How Fear and Toxic Stress are affecting Daily Life, Well-Being, & Health

Report Author: 
Samantha Artiga & Petry Ubri
Original Date of Publication: 
December, 2017

According to this report, immigrant families from various backgrounds are living with increased fear and uncertainty due to the current political climate. The election of Donald Trump has led to policies that increase immigration enforcement and restrict the entry of immigrants from selected countries. These policies can potentially impact 23 million non-citizens who live in the United States, as well as 12 million children who are predominantly U.S.-born. This Kaiser Family Foundation brief uses focus groups with 100 immigrant parents from 15 countries as well as 13 telephone interviews with pediatricians who serve immigrant families to understand how the political climate and enforcement policies since the 2016 presidential election impact the daily lives and health of immigrant families. The report finds that the heightened stress many immigrant families are experiencing can have broad effects on the life and daily routine of these families. Many immigrant parents report difficulty in finding employment. Adults also feel insecure about their ability to stay in the U.S., and they limit their time outside the home to reduce risk of deportation or interaction with law enforcement. Said one Latino parent, "Before, there were many kids in the parks... but now... the kids spend more time inside these days because we are afraid of being deported." In addition, children appear to be exposed to elevated levels of toxic stress. Parents report that their children are experiencing more bullying at school, causing physiological, behavioral and mental health changes in children that can lead to compromised development and poorer mental and physical health outcomes. In response to witnessing increased racism and bullying since the 2016 election as well as changes in health care use, some pediatricians have taken steps to help immigrant families feel safe including increasing communication to reassure confidentiality, having bilingual staff welcome families, and writing letters to assist families facing deportation. (The Immigrant Learning Center's Public Education Institute)

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Citation: 

Artiga, S., & Ubri, P. (2017). Living in an Immigrant Family in America: How Fear and Toxic Stress are Affecting Daily Life, Well-Being, & Health (Issue Brief) (p. 24). Menlo Park, CA: Kaiser Family Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.kff.org/disparities-policy/issue-brief/living-in-an-immigrant-family-in-america-how-fear-and-toxic-stress-are-affecting-daily-life-well-being-health/

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