Impact of Immigration Policies and Practices on Latinx Immigrant Youth: Recommendations for Trauma-Informed Policies and Partnerships


This symposium aims to highlight how U.S. immigration policies impact Latinx immigrant youth and provide recommendations for trauma-informed policies and practices that bolster resilience and well-being among the Latinx immigrant community. The initial presentation will set the stage by describing how immigration policies impact Latinx migrant youth seeking refuge during migration and upon resettlement, with a focus on experiences of trauma. The second presentation will examine the impact of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) among Latinx young adults through the lens of structural violence and illustrate how youth resist this violence. The final presentation will discuss the unique role of integrated, interdisciplinary partnerships and trauma-informed practices in the development of legal universal declarations for Latinx newcomer adolescents seeking asylum. Recommendations for trauma-informed policies and community responses will be woven throughout all presentations.

Learning Objectives
At the end of the session, participants will be able to:
1. Identify how current immigration policies and practices impact Latinx immigrant youth throughout the various stages of migration, including en route, resettlement, and post-migration.
2. Critically evaluate limitations or liminality of DACA status through the lens of structural violence.
3. Explain how immigration policies and practices impact experiences of trauma.
4. Recognize role of medical-legal partnerships in trauma-informed universal declarations for asylum seekers.
5. Discuss recommendations for trauma-informed policies and partnerships, with a focus on supporting resistance, resilience, and well-being.

Program Type
Standard D.1.3.
Program content focuses on topics related to psychological practice, education or research other than application of psychological assessment and/or intervention methods that are supported by contemporary scholarship grounded in established research procedures.

Session organizer
Stephanie A Torres, University of Illinois at Chicago

Consequences of U.S. Immigration Policies on Latinx Migrant Youth Seeking Refuge
Emerging research has demonstrated the detrimental impact of U.S. immigration policies on the mental health of Latinx immigrant youth, particularly during the previous administration (Bruzelius & Baum, 2019; Wood et al., 2018). Child migrants seeking refuge in the U.S. may be particularly hindered by the complexities of the U.S. immigration system (King, 2019) and it is crucial to examine how immigration policies and practices impact experiences of trauma among this population. Forensic psychological evaluations are often a determining factor in successful asylum petitions (Scruggs et al., 2016), and could potentially reveal information about how these policy changes impact trauma endured during migration and upon resettlement. This presentation will examine the case records of migrant youth seen for forensic psychological assessment for immigration relief to explore the impact of immigration policies on experiences of trauma and resulting mental health consequences.

This exploratory mixed methods study examines 35 case records for migrant youth (<18 years old) seen in three psychological asylum evaluation clinics as part of the Midwest Human Rights Consortium (MHRC). A review of case records will code for eight policy categories (e.g., Migration Protection Protocols) as well as examine quantitative data on the types of traumas experienced and associated trauma-related symptomology. Thematic analysis (DeSantis & Noel Ugarriza, 2000), using a combination of deductive and inductive coding, will be used to identify common threads that extend across 15 case records with regards to traumatic experiences and mental health sequalae related to the policy context. Preliminary data suggest that most youth were impacted by immigration policies throughout their migration journey and case exemplars will illustrate ways in which immigration policies exacerbated experiences of trauma for migrant youth seeking asylum. This study seeks to inform policy recommendations and community responses that safeguard child mental health and promote post-traumatic healing and resilience.

Stephanie A Torres, University of Illinois at Chicago

The Structural Violence of DACA and Youth Resistance
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) represents the largest effort to provide relief to undocumented people brought to the United States as children since the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (DeSilver, 2014). However, DACA does not provide a pathway to citizenship (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services [USCIS], 2018), which limits access to opportunities for DACA recipients. The current study examines how youth who have received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) experience and respond to structural violence. Our study involved in-depth semi-structured interviews with 20 Latinx individuals, between the ages of 16 and 29, who migrated to the U.S. before age 16. The majority held DACA status and interviews took place in 2014. We used thematic analysis to explore participants’ experiences. Narratives revealed multiple ways that DACA youth experience structural violence, including a) challenges with the application process, b) the financial burden created by the lack of access to federal financial aid for higher education, and c) fears surrounding DACA. Youth responded to structural violence via a) paying it forward, b) radical hope, c) social support, and d) undocumented pride. Given the structural violence enacted on this specific population by the U.S. government, narratives demonstrate the ways in which young people experience structural violence despite the benefits of DACA and how some resist this violence. Implications for a legislative pathway to citizenship will be discussed.

Ida Salusky, DePaul University

The Medical-Legal Partnership and the Use of Trauma-Informed Universal Declarations
Latinx newcomer adolescents are a rapidly growing youth population which is at disproportionately higher risk for traumatic stress and other behavioral health concerns when compared to European American youth (e.g., Alegría et al, 2015; Suárez-Orozco et al., 2015). These youth may be exposed to traumatic experiences both pre-migration, en route, and post-migration (e.g., Keller et al., 2017; Torres et al., 2018). The Bay Area includes the second largest population in California of immigrants from Central America in immigration proceedings, with over 24,000 juvenile cases pending in the San Francisco Immigration Court (TRAC Immigration, 2021). This presentation will review the existing literature and evidence for integrated, interdisciplinary partnerships that provide legal and policy advocacy for newcomer immigrant youth, with a specific focus on youth from Central America. Understanding that legal status and service access barriers are a significant source of marginalization for newcomer immigrant youth, a framework and history for the authors’ current collaborative based in the San Francisco Bay Area (Bay Area Health and Legal Partnerships for Immigrant Youth) will be briefly described. We will use evidence-based, trauma-informed practices to describe the development of legal universal declarations (Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, 2021) for use in immigration court proceedings, and discuss how these declarations compare to individual asylum expert evaluations. Additionally, we will provide case examples of these declarations in use, as well as case examples of the development and tracking of the use of these declarations. Finally, the potential impact of universal declarations on immigration policy both locally and nationally will be our final focus for the presentation. Collaborative frameworks, particularly those involving legal partnerships, are rarely discussed in the psychological literature, and thus, would add a much-needed community and policy perspective to the vast mental health disparities impacting this population.

William Martinez, University of California, San Francisco

Continuing Education
1.5 CE

To register for video on demand continuing education, please complete the registration form here.