Mental health affects all, regardless of gender, culture, and socio-economic status. Despite the universal nature, many are unable to get the care they need because of a shortage of providers and the stigma surrounding the diagnoses. May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to erase this stigma and educate the public of all ages on the warning signs of mental illness. This month is even more meaningful for immigrants from around the world as our nation’s increasingly harsh immigration policies have harmed the mental and social well-being of millions of American children.
Roughly one in four American children younger than 18 live in immigrant families, and over four million U.S.-citizen children have at least one undocumented parent. A sense of safety and belonging is key to their psychological development. Feeling secure is critical to them thriving emotionally, academically and socially. Conversely, evidence has shown that adverse childhood experiences, like intense uncertainty and fear, are detrimental to their health.
Currently, too many children live in daily fear that their parents could be arrested, detained or deported at any moment. There are numerous stories of groggy children waking up to see their parents handcuffed and taken away late at night, or arrested by an ICE agent on the way to school. These heartbreaking stories will only increase if laws like Texas’ Senate Bill 4, a “show me your papers” law, continue to see the light of day. This unjust law calls on law enforcement and campus police to inquire about immigration status, including questioning children, and mandates fines and jail time for elected officials and law enforcement who fail to comply with the discriminatory law, even though it may make them complicit in violating constitutional safeguards.
Children of immigrants—the large majority of whom are U.S. citizens—are confronted daily with the effects of anti-immigrant policies, such as xenophobic comments shouted in public, bullying on the playground, and having a general feeling that they don’t belong here. All of these lead to chronic, sometimes traumatizing, stress.
By Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard, Grace Naploitano and Pramila Jayapal for THE HILL
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