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Living in fear: how ICE raids affect immigrants’ health

An undocumented immigrant in the U.S. faces many disadvantages. They are more prone to exploitation at work. If they are the victim of crime, they may be afraid to report it to the police. If they become sick or injured, even going to the doctor can put them at risk of deportation.

In addition to these stressors, the current administration is seeking to disrupt immigrant lives at every turn—from separating them from their children at border crossings to raiding their homes and workplaces. These acts create a constant sense of instability and fear. They also have collateral consequences—including negative effects on health.

A recent study examined the impacts of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids on the health of undocumented immigrants. A raid on an immigrant’s home typically occurs in the middle of the night. Ice officers—dressed in body armor and carrying guns—enter a family home and arrest some or all of its occupants. The experience is terrifying and traumatic for those arrested—and for helpless family members who see their loved ones taken from them.

After such a raid, the study found that immigrants experience a sharp decline in health—mentally, physically and emotionally:

  • Their stress levels associated with immigration enforcement jump.
  • A violent raid may lead to physical injuries.
  • They may experience psychological and emotional distress—including anxiety, depression and trauma

In addition, undocumented immigrants are less likely to seek medical help for their health issues—out of fear of deportation through medical repatriation. Immigration-related stress can also make undocumented immigrants more isolated. They often feel less free to leave the house or engage with their social circle. This negatively impacts their health as well.

When undocumented immigrants are pushed to the fringes of society, they are unable to seek help when they need it. America is known as the land of the free. But for the undocumented immigrants in our country, they are not really free at all.

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