At SAHM we are aware of increased concerns and fear among our immigrant communities especially among adolescents and young adults who now not only have to worry about the deportation of their parents, but also themselves. We are aware of how the increase in hate crimes, discrimination, bigotry, fear of deportation and stereotyping against members of groups can negatively impact the health and well-being of the communities we serve.  As you know, SAHM has been advancing advocacy around issues that impact our diverse adolescents and young adults, especially those who are most likely to suffer the pain and trauma.

Yesterday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the administration is rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  Since the Obama administration began DACA in 2012, around 800,000 youth have been protected by it. Let’s review what DACA is:

Who was eligible for DACA?

To be eligible, applicants had to have arrived in the U.S. before age 16 and have lived here since June 15, 2007. They could not have been older than 30 by the time the Department of Homeland Security enacted the policy in 2012, meaning many who came here as children were not eligible. DACA applicants had to provide evidence of who they were by doing a biometric exam (biological features, including fingerprints), pass a background check, show proof that they were living in the United States during the time stipulated above and provide evidence of education, a requirement to demonstrate their investment in their future. This application was $495. DACA was not a pathway to citizenship, and it needed to be renewed every two years, after showing their educational involvement again.

What was gained with the program?

DACA allowed our undocumented youth to obtain valid driver’s licenses, apply and enroll in college and be able to apply for jobs (paying income taxes) and to travel.

What did we and may we lose as a society yesterday? We lost the sense that we can protect all of our adolescents and young adults. Most of us have one of these young people under our care. DACA youth, also known as “Dreamers,” referring to a failed Congress initiative to legalize their status by attending college or joining the military, represents what we as a society thrive to foster in our youth: they conquered all the challenges and the most unthinkable conditions to blossom. We also lost a previous distinction as a nation of immigrants, a nation that welcomed immigrants, and benefitted from their skills, talent and intellect. With the exception of American Indians and African American descendants of slaves, the United States is largely made up of immigrants and their descendants from all over the world. Like the parents of "Dreamers" they came in search of the American dream, the opportunity to work hard, gain employment and education, and to create a better life for themselves and their family. These adolescents and young adults did not choose this scenario, but decided to make the most of it. For many of them this country is all they know. These young people are our future doctors, lawyers, professionals, business owners, legislators, consultants, teachers, workers, parents, caretakers and neighbors.

What can you do?

Use all the elements of trauma informed care to support our adolescents and young adults:
  • Create a safe space by signaling that you are their ally. Ask questions about immigration only to measure their “pile up of stressors,” and to tackle what legal resources you can offer to them.
  • Validate their emotions. DACA youth had a lot of anxiety already, having to prove themselves all the time, and wrestling with “survival guilt.” DACA youth grieve about the fact that they were “the selected portion” of the undocumented community that was protected, some leaving behind their hard-working parents and some siblings and friends.
  • Put a name to it: talk about how “bias, discrimination and stereotyping,” in other words:  racism, hurts
  • Assess their understanding of what ending DACA means, directing them to credible information such as, Here to Stay or referring them to your local legal community expert (make sure you have one ).
  • Reach out to parents, and help them learn about their rights with immigration authorities, and assist them to start developing a plan for their children and adolescents if deportation should occur.

What can we do?

SAHM will continue to monitor efforts in Congress to advance legislation that protects Dreamers and promotes health and well-being of all youth.  We will send out action alerts to advise members of key times for advocacy in the coming months.  

Our adolescents, young adults and you are not alone. SAHM will work to provide the best advocacy and tools to help navigate this. To see what other hospitals are doing to ensure the Latino community does not forgo health care, visit the Hennepin County Medical Center or NYC Health+Hosipitals. The National Immigration Law Center is also an important resource. 

Remember to also take good care of yourself, as you may also experience vicarious trauma.  Thank you for all that you do to support all of our young people and their families.

Sincerely yours,

Maria Veronica Svetaz, MD, MPH, FSAHM,
Chair, Diversity Committee

Tamera Coyne-Beasley, MD, MPH, FSAHM


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