Reducing the fear of deportation and its consequences

Ariela Schachter and Margot Moinester, both assistant professors of sociology, recently won a $174,500 grant from the Russell Sage Foundation (RSF) for a national study on fear of deportation. Schachter and Moinester’s project tackles the question, “can fear of deportation and its consequences be reduced?” with the aim of understanding how the immigration enforcement system contributes to inequality in the United States. Their project was initially supported by an impact grant from the Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy, whose seed funding helped Schachter and Moinester compete for external funding from RSF.

Ariela Schachter

“We originally formulated our research question as Biden was taking office and hopes for comprehensive immigration reform were high,” Schachter explained. “While the Biden administration’s record on immigration policy and enforcement has fallen far short of those early hopes, they have sought to shield from deportation most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants residing in the United States by transforming administrative policies governing interior immigration enforcement.”

“In theory, the reduction in interior immigration enforcement could be very consequential for many people’s lives,” Schachter added.

Without comprehensive immigration reform, however, Moinester and Schachter find that many immigrants and their children continue to live in fear of deportation. This fear can negatively affect overall wellbeing, physical and mental health, social integration, and civic and political participation. Moinester and Schachter’s work will provide critical information on how the immigration system impacts millions of people and whether the changes enacted by the Biden administration are enough to reduce these negative consequences for individuals who fear deportation for themselves or others.

Margot Moinester

Their project is designed to track changes in fear over time and understand how and why fears of deportation may or may not be changing; examine how changes in deportation fears relate to key markers of civic engagement, social integration, and emotional and physical wellbeing; and compare intergenerational immigrant experiences to better understand how processes of racialization are intertwined with experiences of immigration enforcement and its consequences.

“As the first longitudinal, nationally representative survey on deportation fears and their consequences, our project will offer critical new insights into the spillover effects of the U.S. immigration enforcement system for millions of immigrants and their families,” Moinester said. “These findings can aid community groups and policy makers looking to develop strong community health and social wellbeing interventions and address harms caused by the enforcement system.”