State Immigration Law Affects Mental Health

In Arizona the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (SB 1070) was passed in 2010. The law became one of the country’s toughest immigration bills. The law empowers law enforcement agencies to detain anyone reasonably suspected of being an illegal immigrant. Anyone apprehended not carrying a legal-residency document is charged with a misdemeanor. Meanwhile, knowingly hiring, harboring, or transporting undocumented residents is a punishable offense. Against the backdrop of the hostile social environment under SB 1070, Hispanic adolescents in Arizona are particularly vulnerable as the law’s stigmatizing effect on their mental state could stem from the “undocumented immigrant” prototype conditioned by the confluence of labeling, ostracism, discrimination, and stereotyping. A study conducted by a UGA agricultural and applied economist focused on the immigration law’s effect on the mental health of Arizona’s Hispanic adolescents. They found if immigration enforcement authorities are racially profiling legal Hispanic residents or citizens, then attrition through enforcement strategies may also affect legal residents. While the study finds that the more significant repercussions of SB 1070 policy enforcements are the increased probability of sad feelings and decreased amount of reported physical activity among Hispanic adolescents, the idea of suicide effect cannot be completely discounted. Determined immigration efforts result in a restrictive social atmosphere where affected residents of racial profiling could live in persistent paranoia. Today’s advancements in communication technology only provides a swifter mechanism for breeding paranoia, fear, depression, and ultimately thoughts of suicide. Existing policies and regulations can be revisited, reexamined, and reformulated. Cyber security laws should be strengthened and expanded to effectively protect privacy and prosecute violators. In contrast, immigration laws should be tempered so they will be devoid of racial profiling tendencies, and instead foster feelings of security among domestic residents, regardless of ethnic affiliation.