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When a Family Member is Detained or Deported, Immigrant Families Often Face Financial Hardship, Physical and Emotional Health Consequences and New Fears of Engaging with Public Programs

As the Trump Administration pursues enhanced enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws, a new issue brief from the Kaiser Family Foundation documents how the detention or deportation of an individual can have major effects on families and communities.

They include sudden and severe financial hardship and emotional trauma that can trigger long-term effects on mental and physical health, especially for children. At the same time as families are facing these increased needs, their fears of accessing health and nutrition programs are growing.  The fears rise as word spreads about potential changes the Trump administration is proposing to “public charge” policies that could result in individuals being denied legal permanent residency or entry into the U.S. if they or their mostly U.S.-born citizen children use these programs. The effects of detention and deportation also extend into the broader community, affecting schools, health care providers, churches and faith-based organizations, and local businesses by increasing challenges related to serving immigrant families and directly impacting many staff who are in immigrant families themselves.

The report, Family Consequences of Detention/Deportation: Effects on Finances, Health, and Well-Being, examines the direct consequences to family finances, health, and well-being when a member of the household is detained or deported. It is based on 20 in-person interviews with families who recently had a family member detained or deported and 12 telephone interviews with health centers, legal services providers, educators, and community organizations serving immigrant families in California, Texas, and the Washington, DC area that were conducted during Summer 2018. The report provides an on-the-ground view from affected families and those providing services. The report is focused on detention and deportation among families already residing in the U.S., often for many years.  It does not address the separation of families under the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy for individuals entering the U.S. without authorization.

The new paper builds on a previous Kaiser Family Foundation report showed that the current immigration policy environment has significantly increased fear and uncertainty broadly among immigrant families and had wide-ranging negative impacts on their health and well-being.