A new study found that having a relationship with a migrant who is deported or detained can put Latino Americans at a greater risk for hazardous drinking and drug use.
Past research has shown the harmful mental health effects of deportation on migrants themselves. This recent report sheds light on the potential ripple effects of immigration policies on those within their social networks.
The study, published in the International Journal of Drug Policy, looked at patterns of dangerous drinking and drug use among American adults. Researchers found Latino U.S. citizens who knew someone that was detained or deported were more likely to have unhealthy habits.
Among Latino respondents, almost 40% personally knew someone who was detained or deported. This group was more likely to report psychological distress and reported higher rates of hazardous drinking and drug use.
Dangerous drinking was even more prevalent among Latinos who had a friend detained or deported, compared with those going through the same thing with a family member. Latino citizens who did not know someone affected by deportation or detention were not any more likely than white respondents to report dangerous drinking or drug use.
Maritza Perez is director of national affairs at the nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance.
"Nobody's really talking about the trauma that people have to overcome or live with after having a loved one detained or deported," Perez said. "So the fact that there's actually research backing up what many of us have seen and feel day-to-day was just really validating in that way."
Perez said the link between knowing a detained or deported migrant and dangerous substance use is a public health risk that has largely been overlooked. One report by the Urban Institute estimates that more than 5 million Latino American children have a family member who is undocumented. Perez said when a loved one is detained or deported, the harmful effects are far-reaching.
"If they're a breadwinner, that could also add additional stressors in your life," she said. "So not only are you dealing with the traumatic experience of somebody being detained or deported, but you're also stressed about putting food on the table and keeping a roof over the family's head."