Study: San Diego Immigrants Living in Fear

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A new report released this week by the Center for American Progress finds that restrictionist immigration policies and ramped-up federal enforcement inhibit immigrant incorporation into their communities.

Immigrants react to legal threats and hostile reception by going underground, according to the study: They hold negative perceptions of local law enforcement, associate routine activities such as driving and walking with anxiety and the risk of deportation, and develop strategies of avoidance and fitting in to mitigate the discovery of their unauthorized status.

These avoidance strategies can lead to several problems for larger communities: Immigrants who do not interact with police limit the efficacy of policing measures; immigrants who are reluctant to accompany their children to school are a barrier to effective education; and immigrants who are afraid to leave their houses foster less vibrant and civically unengaged neighborhoods.

These anxieties affect documented and undocumented immigrants alike. According to a 2009 Pew Hispanic Center report, 53 percent of undocumented immigrants live in mixed-status families, where one or more family member is undocumented. Because authorized immigrants fear that their friends and loved ones could be deported when in contact with officials, many ultimately use the same strategies of avoidance.

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