Trump Immigration Policies Spark Increased Anxiety and Poorer Sleep for Latino Youth, Study Finds

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Migrants are loaded onto a bus by U.S. Border Patrol agents after being detained when they crossed into the United States from Mexico on June 1, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. The location is in an area where migrants frequently turn themselves in to Border Patrol and ask for asylum after crossing the border. In recent months, U.S. immigration officials have seen a surge in the number of asylum-seekers arriving at the border. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A UC Berkeley School of Public Health study suggests that since the 2016 presidential election, some Latino youth have experienced increased anxiety and poorer sleep.

Researchers assessed the health of nearly 400 teenagers living in California before and after the 2016 election. All youth in the study were born in the U.S. and have at least one immigrant parent.

More than 40% reported worrying about the impacts of U.S. immigration policy on their family, and those with concerns also had higher anxiety and worse sleep than their peers.

The study is part of ongoing research following primarily Mexican American farmworker families.

"The study is important because we're showing that the current anti-immigration rhetoric and policies in the U.S. following the 2016 election is affecting the health of Latinx youth, including U.S. citizens," said Brenda Eskenazi, professor of maternal and child health and epidemiology at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health and lead author of the study.


Whereas previous studies have looked at Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients or undocumented immigrants, Eskenazi's research focused on U.S. citizens.

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"They are citizens by birthright," she said. "The implications are that the impact of the U.S. policies are further-reaching than we had known before."

Dr. Katherine D’Harlingue, associate medical director for pediatrics at the health center La Clínica in Oakland, said she didn’t need a study to tell her about increased anxiety among immigrant populations. During her eight years at La Clínica, she has always seen her patients worry about immigration, but their fears dramatically increased after Donald Trump’s election.

"We’ve definitely seen increased rates of anxiety, depression, a lot of kids just being really fearful and wanting to cling to their parents," D’Harlingue said. "We also just see a lot of kids with things that present as medical problems: abdominal pain, migraines, that when you actually get to the bottom of it there’s a lot of stress and anxiety that is related to immigration."

Study authors are following up with the teenagers to see if their anxiety has persisted.