Immigration affects the whole family

Tacia Knoper

President Obama’s recent support of a complete immigration overhaul and the continued debate within Congress has highlighted the lengthy, uncertain, and often confusing journey that many individuals and families undergo in hopes to gain permanent residency or U.S. citizenship.

There are an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S., some of whom have lived here as long, or longer than in their country of origin. Many have put down roots in their communities, have jobs and families, and are hoping for a future that includes better care and opportunities than what had previously been available to them. In order to fully participate in all the U.S. has to offer, however, many must make the difficult choice to leave all of these things behind and voluntarily deport to their birth countries to be interviewed and evaluated for U.S. residency.

united states passports  --  CC Image courtesy of J Skilling on Flickr

Once the immigration process is started, the call that gives them their interview date at their country’s embassy could come at any time. Individuals must be prepared to drop their lives and leave on short notice, many without time to make more than rudimentary preparations. Jobs are lost, spouses who are already U.S. citizens suddenly become the head of single-parent households, and financial savings are drained. Most significant, however, is the break-up of families during one of the most stressful and lonely times in their lives.

Depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and a host of physical symptoms are a common response to the strain of separation, but often go untreated due to lack of finances or lack of time as they struggle to balance jobs and children without their partner.

Because the outcome of each family’s process and journey through this tangled web of paperwork, interviews and extreme amounts of waiting is different, it is unknown whether or not the spouse seeking citizenship will actually return to this country or not.

statue of liberty --  CC Image courtesy of gula08 on Flickr

We will continue to work with as many affected lives as we’re able to- there’s a huge need for mental health services for this demographic of our population. We have high hopes of expanding our services in this area soon.