Phoenix, Arizona – Ileana Salinas, a DACA recipient, is facing the uncertainty of her future in the United States as she awaits the renewal of her immigration status. The mental toll of living in constant fear of deportation is exacerbated by the ever-changing immigration policies that impact her community and mental well-being.
According to the most recent numbers from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, there are 544,960 active DACA recipients in the U.S., with 20,750 of them living in Arizona. However, this might only be a fraction of those who are eligible for the program, as estimated by the Migration Policy Institute.
While DACA recipients can work, they are not eligible for federal health programs like Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act marketplace. This often leads to higher uninsured rates among DACA recipients and creates significant barriers to accessing general and mental health care.
Anti-immigrant policies like SB 1070 in Arizona have instilled a culture of fear that prevents undocumented immigrants and DACA recipients from seeking the mental health care they need. This fear has led to a lack of access to preventive health care and public assistance for many undocumented individuals, contributing to a pervasive atmosphere of uncertainty and anxiety.
Other states, inspired by Arizona’s SB 1070, have introduced similar anti-immigrant legislation, further perpetuating the culture of fear among immigrant communities. These policies deter undocumented individuals and their families from seeking essential health care services, reinforcing the cycle of fear and uncertainty.
Despite the challenges and barriers, organizations like Aliento and NAMI Southern Arizona are working to provide informal mental health care and support to undocumented immigrants and their families, aiming to break down the cultural stigma surrounding mental health in Latino communities and create a sense of community and hope. These initiatives highlight the resilience and determination of immigrant communities to overcome the obstacles placed before them.
Through community organizing and advocacy efforts, individuals like Ileana Salinas are striving to bring about change and improve the mental well-being of undocumented immigrants. These stories serve as a testament to the strength and determination of immigrant communities in the face of adversity.