Immigration’s Threat to Health

The topic of immigration is controversial and complex. However regardless of one’s personal views on the issue, it is undeniable that the uncertainty and lack of information  in our communities is ultimately detrimental to the communities’ health. An article by the Washington Post describes how the stress experienced by the threat of deportation can have devastating effects on health, beyond those immediately affected.

“Over time, such chronic stress, unaddressed, will make them far more vulnerable to heart disease, asthma, diabetes and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

The University of Michigan conducted a study on the impact of the 2008 federal immigration raid in Postville, Iowa, the largest in U.S. history. The study found an increase of Hispanic babies born with low birth weight, which can cause long term health risks, a 24% increase in comparison to the year before. 

The study also found that the risk for low birth weight was equally high for Latinas with protected legal status, “…in spite of their apparent safety, their bodies were reacting as if they, too, could soon be deported.” This can result in an “epigenetic” effect that modifies the way genes are expressed, allowing for the transmission of “vulnerabilities to stress from one generation to the next.”

While the debate over immigration continues, it is important to take a moment to recognize that what affects one group actually affects us all. We have a responsibility to care for the health of all community members, but equally important, to stay informed and aid those who are vulnerable.

For more information and updates please see the resources below:

  • San Mateo County Health Equity Initiatives– work with community leaders and Behavioral Health and Recovery Services (BHRS) programs to address community-identified needs. Each Initiative meets monthly to discuss, plan, and implement resources, trainings, workshops, and celebrations.
  • Immigration Forum– is a monthly gathering for immigrant service providers in San Mateo County to share experiences, resources and best practices. For meeting schedule please send email to

Legal Resources:

Gordon, J. (2017) Living in fear of deportation is terrible for your health. Washington Post. Retrieved form


Written by Frances Lobos, Co-Chair of Latino Collaborative & Program Coordinator of Parent Project®