Immigration and Mental Health
Updated: May 23
Myths and Facts
Myth: Jobs filled by immigrants, particularly those who are undocumented, take away job opportunities for unemployed Americans
Myth: Undocumented immigrants do not pay taxes
Fact: Undocumented immigrants pay billions of dollars each year in taxes, often for benefits they will never receive[iv]
Myth: Immigrants drive down the wages for American workers
Fact: Immigrants give a slight boost to the wages of most Americans by increasing their productivity and stimulating investment.[v]
Myth: Immigrants come to the US to take receive welfare benefits
Fact: Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for federal public benefit programs, and authorized immigrants face stringent eligibility restrictions.[vi]
Myth: Immigrants are more likely to commit crimes than U.S. natives.
There is an increase of tighter restrictions on individuals wishing to live in the U.S.
Higher immigration requirements jeopardize the woman’s ability to qualify because they do not have the same opportunities for education and skilled jobs in their native country
Increased restrictions result in greater financial burden to pay both higher number and higher fees
Family members are often separated for years
Individuals are barred from receiving benefits for five years even though they pay taxes
Undocumented workers seeking employment are in the precarious position of being abused by their employer who threaten them with deportation if they file a complaint
Asian American immigration[x]:
According to the 2010 Census, Asian Americans are the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States with a 46% increase between 2000 and 2010.
There are 18.2 million Asian Americans who comprise 6% of the total US population
60% are foreign born
The great diversity between Asian American subpopulations in levels of education and income is often masked when APIs are reported as a homogeneous population
Of the 11.6 million undocumented individuals, 1.4 are from Asian countries
It is estimated that close to half of all immigrants who are “illegal” came on a legal visa then let it expire, sometimes unaware that this had occurred. It is uncertain how many Asians fall into this category.
Mental Health issues:
Immigration is in and of itself an emotionally stressful situation, resulting in loss of status, trying to adjust to life in a new country and intergenerational conflict. Challenges faced by unfair policies and practices only contribute to the emotional turmoil for the immigrant Asian population.
The backlog of individuals wishing to immigrate results in years of separation between family members. Needless to say this creates tremendous emotional strain for the entire family. It also destroys the basic fabric of Asian cultures which relies on strong family ties.
The additional emotional strain to pay high fees to become citizens adds to an already stressful situation.
Ongoing stress can result in poorer performance at work or school and can negatively impact a person’s overall health.
The fear of deportation is a daily threat that can create serious emotional trauma. This holds true for those who are fully documented but may have family members who are not
Undocumented workers are at great risk for being abused by employers and feel they have no recourse to protect themselves.
Even those who are documented but have limited English proficiency are at risk of being abused by those who take advantage of their situation
While DREAM Act youth are being protected by this administration, they are still at risk for deportation because of those who are still see them as “illegal” and are working to have them removed.
[i] Pia Orrenius and Madeline Zavodny, From Brawn to Brains: How Immigration Works for America, 2010 Annual Report (Dallas, TX: Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, 2010), p. 6-7, http://www.dallasfed.org/fed/annual/2010/ ar10b.pdf#page=3.
[ii] See Immigration Policy Center, The Economic Blame Game: U.S. Unemployment is Not Caused by Immigration (Washington, DC: American Immigration Council, November 19, 2009), <http://www.immigrationpolicy. org/sites/default/files/docs/Economic_Blame_ Game_111909_0.pdf>.
[iii] The White House, Economic Report of the President, February 2005, p. 107, http://www.gpoaccess.gov/eop/2005/2005_erp.pdf.
[iv] Social Security Administration, FY 2010 Performance and Accountability Report, November 2010, p. 178
[v] Giovanni Peri, Rethinking the Effects of Immigration on Wages: New Data and Analysis from 1990-2004 (Washington, DC: Immigration Policy Center, American Immigration Law Foundation, October 2006), p. 6,
[vi] National Immigration Law Center, Overview of Immigrant Eligibility for Federal Programs (Washington, DC: October 2010), <http://www.nilc.org/pubs/guideupdates/tbl1_ovrvw-fed-pgms-rev-2010-10-07.pdf
[vii] Federal Bureau of Investigation, Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics, UCR Data Online, <http://www.ucrdatatool.gov/Search/ Crime/State/StatebyState.cfm>.
Analysis of Senate Immigration Reform Bill, Title II: Immigrant Visas. National Immigration Law Center. April 24, 2013
Asian Americans and Family-Sponsored Immigration, Asian American Justice Center Fact Sheet
AAJC Fact Sheet: White House Proposal for Immigration Reform, Asian American Justice Center
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Principles for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. National Council of Asian Pacific Americans.
Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S.744), the bill. U.S. Senate. April 16, 2013
Immigration Alert: Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S.744). Morgan Lewis. April 19, 2013
Immigration: Myths and Facts. Labor, Immigration and Employee Benefits Division of U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 2011
Immigration Policy Reform Values and Goals. National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. http://napawf.org/
Outline of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S.744). U.S. Senate. April 16, 2013
Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. 42 USC 1305 note.
Reuniting Families. Asian American Justice Center. http://www.advancingequality.org/reuniting-families
Watson, T. Eliminating F3/married children and F4/sibling category in immigration reform? http://discuss.ilw.com/showthread.php?33427-Article-Eliminating-F3-married-children-and-F4-sibling-category-in-immigration-reform-by-Tahmina-Watson