Public Release: 

Protecting unauthorized immigrant deportation improves their children's mental health

American Association for the Advancement of Science

Protecting unauthorized immigrant mothers from deportation considerably improved the mental health of their U.S. citizen children -- decreasing rates of adjustment and anxiety disorder diagnoses by over 50%, according to a new study. The results have important implications around the ongoing discussion to eliminate or expand former President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which offered temporary protection from deportation to over 750,000 unauthorized immigrants. Current estimates report that there are roughly 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S., who are also parents to more than 4 million U.S. citizen children by birth. To investigate how changes in parents' unauthorized immigration status impacts the health of their children, Jens Hainmueller and colleagues used a novel sampling approach based on Medicaid claims data from Oregon and the assignment of DACA eligibility among mothers with birthdates close to a specific age cutoff (immigrant mothers born after 15 June 1981 were granted status, while those born just before the cutoff were not). They showed that the children of mothers given status had fewer mental health issues, a finding that suggests parents' unauthorized immigrant status may be linked to health inequalities through the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage. The researchers say a broader analysis of DACA is needed to account for such intergenerational effects, and to integrate the children of unauthorized immigrants into the next generation of U.S. citizens.

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