Pre-Migration Trauma Exposure and Mental Health Functioning among Central American Migrants Arriving at the US Border

Report Author: 
Allen Keller, Amy Joscelyne, Megan Granski, Barry Rosenfeld
Original Date of Publication: 
January, 2017

In recent years, the influx of families and children from Central America arriving at the US border has been deemed an "urgent humanitarian situation." Examining how the experiences of migrants correspond with the requirements for asylum status can powerfully inform public discourse and policy.  This report focuses on migrants from the Northern Triangle region, formed by El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, and considers their pre-migration trauma, current mental health functioning, reasons for leaving the region, and rate at which they appeared to satisfy the legal criteria for asylum. Researchers interviewed 234 adults seeking assistance at the Church of the Sacred Heart in McAllen, Texas and found that 83 percent of participants cited violence as a reason for fleeing their country, 69 percent did not report violent events to the police for fear of police corruption and gang-related retribution, and 90 percent are afraid to return to their native country. Based on self-report symptom checklists, 32 percent of participants met the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder, 24 percent for depression, and 17 percent for both disorders. When considering the data against the criteria for asylum in the U.S., researchers found that 70 percent of the overall sample met the criteria for asylum. The findings indicate that with the high degrees of trauma and psychological distress present in the population, the use of detention for these asylum-seekers may be cruel and retraumatizing. (Grace Chen for The ILC Public Education Institute)

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Pre-Migration Trauma Exposure and Mental Health Functioning among Central American Migrants Arriving at the US Border

Citation: 

Keller, A., Joscelyne, A., Granski, M., & Rosenfeld, B. (2017). Pre-Migration Trauma Exposure and Mental Health Functioning among Central American Migrants Arriving at the US Border. PLOS ONE, 12(1), e0168692. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0168692

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