Deportation fears are associated with risk factors for heart disease, a recent study published in Annals of Behavioral Medicine says. The study comes at a time when fear of deportation is paramount, and DREAMers’ are just the latest immigrant group whose anxieties over documentation are palpable.
“All kinds of social stressors — related to economic status, discrimination, income equality, all of those things affect heart disease,” Jacqueline Torres, author of the study and assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco’s School of Medicine, told ThinkProgress. “Our concern: this fear of deportation may operate in a same way.”
There’s strong evidence to suggest racial/ethnic discrimination, as a psychosocial stressor, contributes to cardiovascular disease. Torres’ study is the first to build off prior research and examine deportation fears as a stressor. While the findings are on par with what you’d expect, no one has thought to quantify what’s been well-documented through qualitative data before.
After analyzing the vital signs of 545 Latinx women, who are Salinas farmers, between 2012-2014, when deportation peaked under the Obama administration, researchers concluded that there’s an association between deportation fears and cardiovascular risk factors. Almost half of the women who expressed “a lot of worry” had greater waist circumferences and body mass indexes — meaning higher odds for obesity. They also had greater blood and pulse pressure. There was no significant variation between nativity, which could suggest fear similarly affects U.S.-born individuals with family members who may be at risk of deportation.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for every group except Latinx. It’s the second-leading cause of death for Latinx; the first is cancer.
Worries of being deported under the Trump administration are at least comparable to those under Obama’s, Pew Research surveys suggest. When surveyed just before Donald Trump’s inauguration, nearly half (47 percent) of Latinx, regardless of their immigration status, say they worry “a lot” or “some” about this; In 2013, 46 percent Latinx said so.
Deportations under the Trump administration lag behind Obama’s. Even so, the narrative surrounding immigration is nonstop and hostile.
“We are removing gang members, drug dealers, and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our very innocent citizens. Bad ones are going out as I speak, and as I promised throughout the campaign,” the president said during his first joint address to Congress. (The president once asserted people emigrating from Mexico were criminals and rapists.)
And, under Trump, many immigrant groups who were once afforded equal rights may have to return to the shadows:
Estimated numbers for how many immigrants have legal work permits and deportation protections that Trump admin. is terminating:
El Salvador TPS: 200,000
Haiti TPS: 50,000
Nicaragua TPS: 2,500https://t.co/N88o7uBPLj
— Elise Foley (@elisefoley) January 8, 2018
DREAMers, or people who are protected from deportation through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, are just a recent group whose documentation status is in limbo. A California judge partially restarted the program Tuesday night. Vox’s Dara Lind sussed out the decision this way: “The only clear upshot for the people who might be affected by Tuesday night’s injunction is that it replaces the certainty that their DACA will end with a very fragile possibility that they can renew it.”
“The ruling last night in no way diminishes the urgency of solving the DACA issue,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). So far, only a handful of senators told ThinkProgress a DACA fix is contigent on them voting for the upcoming government funding bill, the deadline of which is Jan. 19. Sixteen Democrats supported a spending bill last year without a fix, leaving DREAMers behind.
Oblivion is no way to live — much less contribute to society.
“This group of farm workers in Salinas Valley [is] producing many of the nation’s agricultural goods,” said Torres. “Salinas is the salad capital of the world.”
The women who permitted Torres and her team to document their vital signs are Salinas farmers. Salinas Valley is responsible for 70 percent of the nation’s lettuce. While our humanity should be reason enough to care, Torres added that these people — who live with insidious fear — are contributing to the well-being of our society — in this particular case, our agricultural society.
And people need to be in good health to contribute.