March 19, 2020

Unforeseen consequences of immigration enforcement on impacted communities

Individuals exposed to immigration raids and deportations have lower levels of reproductive autonomy and affected decision-making about reproduction, a new study finds.

Mikel Llanes, M.D.
Mikel Llanes, M.D. 

In the recent article, ‘I’m going to look for you and take your kids’: Reproductive justice in the context of immigration enforcement, published in the journal, PLOS ONE, Mikel Llanes, M.D., assistant professor, along with others, describe observations from a study of Latinos in a town in Southeast Michigan after a specific immigration enforcement raid.

Prior research has shown that immigration policy and actions have significant implications on those affected by them. For example, undocumented immigrants access health care at lower rates than documented immigrants and non-immigrants. And non-citizen immigrants are less likely to enroll in health insurance and food assistance programs, or seek medical services, especially prenatal care, due to fear of deportation or a negative impact on obtaining a visa or citizenship.

This specific study examined patterns of reproduction after a community was exposed to an immigration raid resulting in multiple arrests and deportations. Women of childbearing age who wanted to have more children were asked about their desired timing of next pregnancy. The survey results showed that after the raid women stated wanting longer periods of time in advance of having a next child than the women wanted before the raid took place. 

The researchers conjectured the change in women’s preferences was caused by the extreme anxiety of having a family member forcibly removed, the negative financial and mental health impacts on those left behind after a raid, and generalized community fear of subsequent raids. 

These findings add to growing data that immigration enforcement efforts have large effects on entire communities, including on reproductive decision-making and autonomy of families, providing valuable information for policy makers.