Impact of ICE on health: perceptions of immigrants in Everett, MA

Topic Area: Immigrant health
Service: Applied Research

Following the passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, and the creation of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency after the attacks of September 11, 2001, detention and deportation activity of US immigrants has increased substantially. As a result, immigrants today are experiencing heightened fear of profiling and deportation. ICH staff were senior authors on a study published in Social Science and Medicine that aimed to understand how these activities affect the health of US immigrant communities. This study used community-based participatory research to investigate the impact of enhanced immigration enforcement on immigrant health in Everett, MA, a city with a large and diverse immigrant population. Community partners and researchers conducted 6 focus groups with 52 immigrant participants (documented and undocumented) in five languages in May 2009. The researched showed that immigration enforcement activities and the resulting deportation fear are contextual factors that undermine trust in community institutions and social capital, with implications for health and effective integration processes. Recommendations from the focus groups included improving relationships between immigrants and local police, educating immigrants on their rights and responsibilities as residents, and holding sessions to improve civic engagement.