Living a Deportation Threat: Anticipatory Stressors Confronted by Undocumented Mexican Immigrant Women
Previous sociological research shows that exposure to stress varies by individuals’ social statuses and is a central mechanism in producing mental health disparities. This line of research suggests that ethnoracial groups are more exposed to racial discrimination, thus negatively impacting their mental health. There has also been a growing literature showing how legal status impacts the mental health of immigrants and their families. However, the sociology of mental health and migration literature has largely remained disparate. This paper bridges these literatures to highlight how living a deportation threat manifests itself as an anticipatory stressor that negatively impacts undocumented Mexican migrant women’s access to resources, social relationships, and social roles. Based on 30 semi-structured in-depth interviews with undocumented Mexican immigrant women from Houston, Texas, my findings reveal living a deportation threat is a perpetual anticipatory stressor that intensifies the effects of avoiding authorities, family fragmentation, and economic uncertainty. I argue this anticipatory stressor transforms into a chronic stressor that undocumented Mexican women confront daily. By situating this study within an anti-immigrant social context, it highlights the social processes and mechanisms that exacerbate the stressors undocumented Mexican immigrant women confront.
KeywordsDeportation threat Anticipatory stressors Anti-immigrant sentiment Undocumented Mexican immigrant women Stress process
I thank the women that participated in this study. Without them this project would be non-existent. I also thank Zulema Valdez, Rogelio Sáenz, Verna Keith, and Holly Foster for their continued support during all phases of this research. I am also grateful to Joseph Morrissey, Eugenia Conde, Will Hall, and David Chow for their thoughtful comments. Finally, I am grateful to the following funding agencies: American Sociological Association Minority Fellowship Program; Ford Foundation; Race and Ethnic Studies Institute at Texas A&M University; Department of Sociology at Texas A&M University; and the College of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M University.
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