New RSF Issue: Undocumented Immigrants and Their Experience with Illegality

July 13, 2017

Today, an estimated 11.3 million undocumented immigrants live in the U.S. Most have family members who are citizens or lawful permanent residents, and over half have lived here for at least thirteen years. Yet, the threat of deportation and lack of citizenship rights have profound effects on the well-being of both undocumented individuals and their families. In Volume 3, Issue 4 of RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, editors Roberto G. Gonzales and Steven Raphael and an interdisciplinary team of scholars examine the lives of undocumented immigrants and the challenges that confront them.

Caitlin Patler and Nicholas Branic find that undocumented individuals in immigrant detention facilities that are privately operated are less likely to be visited by family members than those in county or city jails, in part because private facilities have restricted visiting hours and are more di cult to access via public transportation. Lauren Heidbrink finds that unaccompanied minors in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) are less likely to be released to guardians or reunited with family members because ORR standards are much tougher than those used by child protective services for minor citizens.

Lauren E. Gulbas and Luis H. Zayas find that many children with undocumented parents experience symptoms of anxiety and depression due to fears about their parents’ status. Yet, increased access to financial, educational, legal, and other immigration-related resources for these families can help buffer these children against trauma related to deportation and family separations. Susan K. Brown and Alejandra J. Sanchez focus on children with undocumented mothers and show that, because having an undocumented mother is associated with a reduction in children’s years of schooling, it also indirectly lowers their levels of voting, activism, and political awareness as young adults.

Although undocumented immigrants are more enmeshed in the U.S. than they have been in the past, their status prevents further integration into society. This issue reveals the consequences of illegality not just for undocumented immigrants, but also for their families and their communities.

Read the open-access issue in full.

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The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of original empirical research articles by both established and emerging scholars.

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