Changing immigration policies negatively impact undocumented students, new UC study says

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A new study conducted by the University of California shows changing immigration policies negatively affect a wider group of students than previously known.

Researchers surveyed 1,800 students across nine UC campuses and found undocumented students and students with mixed-status families are more likely to have a lower GPA and experience mental health disorders than U.S. citizen students whose parents have lawful immigration status.

"28% of undocumented students and 30% of U.S. citizens with undocumented parents are sort of expressing anxiety and or depressive symptoms at that clinical level, compared to 21% of U.S. citizens with lawfully present parents," said Laura Enriquez, the lead principal investigator of the immigration study and associate professor at UC Irvine.

The study began when former President Trump took office and there was uncertainty surrounding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). This program shields around 800,000 undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as children from deportation.

"When a student may have that legal piece of paper right that makes them welcome on a college campus, it doesn't mean at all that they stop thinking about their siblings who might not have that status or their parents, and that the the anxiety and the fear of deportation and things like that affect those students on campus," said Zulema Valdez, a co-principal investigator of the study and sociology professor at UC Merced.

"When one administration is switching to another administration and the policy is in flux, and it's not quite clear what the outcome is going to be. Then who's going to really rely on that or trust that the policy, the way that it used to be, is going to be carried forward or not," Valdez added.

Laura Enriquez agrees, and says without a consistent policy, many students are stuck in a state of limbo.

"A lot of the conversations that we had with students was very much about the inability to plan and to move forward," Professor Enriquez said.

For now, researchers are calling on universities to expand resources for undocumented students and support for all who are impacted by changing immigration policies.
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