Deportations and Mental Health

I recently finished a two-part series for New Mexico In Depth and Fronteras Desk about how the deportation of family members might impact the mental health of young people.

Part 1: Schools try to keep students focus on academics

David Varela is a senior at the South Valley Academy just outside Albuquerque. He found out last year that his parents and grandmother are living in the United States without legal status.

“What would happen with my family if they ever get deported?” he asks. Now that he knows, David says it’s hard to keep the possibility his family members will be deported out of his mind: “What am I going to do, where am I going to stay? I don’t know if I could ever survive without them.”

Part 2: Families arm kids with emergency plans

Sarah Nolan is the executive director of Comunidades en Accion y de Fe, an immigrants’ rights organization known as CAFÉ, in Las Cruces near the U.S.-Mexico border. Nolan says parents who are vulnerable have created deportation readiness plans.

“They have an emergency plan for if one or both parents get deported and what happens when they’re alone,” she says. Nolan compares this preparation to families who teach their kids how to get out of the house during a fire …. “They have armed their older children with a rapid response.”

These stories aired on NPR stations in the Southwestern US, including KPCC in Los Angles, CA.

Voices Behind the Vote

For the 2012 election, the KUNM newsroom produced a series of voter profiles. Everyday New Mexicans talked about the issues that matter most to them in the voting booth. I produced four profiles for the series that represented a range of perspectives on politics:

  • A couple from Placitas, NM who identify as libertarians and are concerned about government spending: Small is Beautiful.
  • A young family who supports President Obama and hopes that immigration reform will be achieved if Obama is elected to a second term in office: Family of Three.
  • A retired Albuquerque High teacher who sees the country changing and is concerned about how well political parties serve the interests of young people: The Country is Changing.
  • And a firearms instructor who is thinking about protections for the constitution and how best to allocate the government’s financial resources : Head and Heart.

New Mexico: A Different Debate Over Immigration

While reporting on immigration in New Mexico, I often hear people say “New Mexico is not Arizona.” This comes from all political perspectives, including elected officials and everyday New Mexicans. I checked in with some Native American leaders in New Mexico about immigration and the 2012 elections.

Laurie Weahkee, director of the Albuquerque-based Native American Voters Alliance, says “a lot of Native American folks have mixed feelings about the driver’s license issue,” but her organization supports keeping it. “We feel that all drivers need to be licensed,” says Weakhee, because “it promotes safety for everyone.” Weahkee, who is Dineh, Cochiti, and Zuni Pueblo Indian, says undocumented immigrants who have a driver’s license can purchase car insurance and are more likely to stick around after an accident to file a police report because they don’t have to be afraid of interacting with the police.

New Mexico’s 19 pueblos have deep roots to the land that their ancestors called home and have dealt with newcomers for centuries. San Ildefonso Pueblo Governor Terry Aguilar says his tribe cooperates with local and state officials on immigration issues, but they have not taken a stance on the New Mexico driver’s license policy. Governor Aguilar says as long as tribes are able to maintain sovereignty in their own laws, federal immigration laws should continue to be enforced and “everybody should be accountable for their actions.”

Full story at Indian Country Today