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.

A Different Kind Of Border State

New Mexico has flown under the radar for years in the national immigration debate. Maybe it’s the state’s small population of about 2 million residents. It might also be the unique demographics – about 44% of New Mexicans identify as Hispanic or Latino. State and local leaders, especially in northern New Mexico, have adopted policies to protect immigrants from discrimination. New Mexico also currently lets anyone get a driver’s license, regardless of immigration status. But, some immigrants’ rights advocates are raising concerns that federal policies and local politics are hurting the state’s tolerant culture.

I did two stories for KUNM as part of my fellowship with the Institute for Justice and Journalism’s Immigration in the Heartland program.

New Mexico’s Immigration History Shapes Debate Today

Secure Communities Targets Undocumented Immigrants In NM

Immigration in the Heartland

Immigration is a profoundly human experience. That’s what keeps pulling me toward this topic as a reporter.

This year, I’m focusing on immigration as a fellow with the Institute for Justice and Journalism. In March, I attended a week-long training program in Oklahoma City and Dallas. The other reporters were from states like Florida, Iowa, Colorado and Illinois. We learned about immigration law, research and census data and met with teens and families who shared their experiences of living in the U.S. without legal papers.

Back in Albuquerque, I’m looking for perspectives on immigration in New Mexico.

U Visa Offers Crime Victims A New Life In The US

A little known program called the U Visa is giving some undocumented people a chance to start a new life in the US. But, there’s a catch.

The U Visa is only available for victims of violent crimes and they have to take the risk of reporting those crimes first before they are eligible for the program. While reporting for KUNM, I found that many of the applicants in New Mexico are women who have been abused by their husbands or boyfriends.

U Visa Offers Protection For Victims

Albuquerque Dreamer

Undocumented students don’t have many options once they leave school.  Many can’t continue on after high school, even if they were stellar students, and those who do attend a college or university can’t legally get a job after graduation.

The DREAM Act would give young people who were brought into the  US as children, under the age of 16, an opportunity to apply for legal status.

I interviewed one New Mexico student who is living in limbo while the legislation remains stalled in Congress.

Albuquerque Dreamer

The Border as Metaphor

Author Luis Alberto Urrea grew up along the border between US and Mexico, but his interpretation of the border was also shaped by his childhood.  He has an American mother and a Mexican father. Urrea is the author of several books of poetry, fiction and nonfiction.  The Devil’s Highway was a 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist.  His latest book is a novel that’s based on a real challenge in small towns across Mexico – almost all of the young men now work in the United States. The fictional heroines of Into the Beautiful North are a group of young women who travel to the US to try to convince some young men to return home

Urrea says he sees the border as a division between people.  I interviewed him for All Things Considered on KUNM.

Into the Beautiful North