The Aftermath of Immigration Enforcement Episodes: An Exploration of the Impacts on Young Adults

Awarded Scholars:
Joanna Dreby, State University of New York at Albany
Eunju Lee, State University of New York at Albany
Project Date:
Dec 2019
Award Amount:
Project Programs:
Immigration and Immigrant Integration

Today, more than one in four U.S. children live in immigrant-origin households; 88 percent are American citizens.  Since 2007, the federal government has removed and detained over 300,000 people every year. Enforcement impacts extend beyond targeted individuals, as about 500,000 U.S. citizen children experienced the apprehension, detention and deportation of at least one parent between 2011 and 2013. Recent studies document the negative impacts of immigration enforcement on children in immigrant-origin families, particularly following removal of a parent. But other effects are more frequent and affect more citizen children, including fears of separation, stigma and economic insecurity.  Few studies have focused on the cumulative effect of heightened enforcement on these children as they reach young adulthood. There is a robust literature on the temporal relationships between adverse childhood experiences and health and wellbeing later in life. However, some scholars hypothesize that the effects of immigration enforcement may differ from childhood traumas for which parents and family members may be considered as directly or indirectly responsible (e.g., child abuse or neglect, parental incarceration). To increase our understanding of the impacts of the experience of apprehension, detention or deportation of a parent while under the age of 18 years old, sociologists Joanna Dreby and Eunju Lee propose to conduct an ethnographic and qualitative interview study, complemented by a psychosocial assessment collected via questionnaires.  The research will take place in upstate New York, an area with great local variation in community social support and cooperation with federal law enforcement agencies.


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