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with Tarra Bates-Duford, Ph.D., MFT

How The Immigration Ban Affects Families

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Many of us have heard the terms “illegal immigrants” or “undocumented immigrants” being heavily talked about on the radio, news, and discussions. Persons that are deemed “illegal” or “undocumented” immigrants are simply people that do not have the official paperwork that allows them to live in another country. Often, the reasons why some people do not become a citizen of a country to which they reside include legal channels that have become too expensive, the process is long and drawn out, complicated, scary, confusing, etc.

Recently, immigration concerns have been a heavily debated topic in the media as fear continues to intensify in response to a suggested ban on new immigrants. Within a day of President Donald Trump signing an executive order banning entry of people from seven countries, protests sprang up at airports across the United States. Many people sharing the same belief, that the ban preventing people from entering the US from other countries is unconstitutional and prejudicial. Fear and concern surrounds both entering and re-entering the country as loved ones are faced with whether or not to visit a loved one, attend a wedding, birthday, or funeral and fearing they may not be allowed to return to the US once they have left the country.

Unfortunately, many families now live in limbo as uncertainty mounts following President Donald Trump’s executive order limiting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. Specifically, the order targets people from countries originally listed by the Obama administration as terrorist hotbeds — Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. Family members and loved ones of persons living in countries identified as “terrorist hotbeds” have expressed fears and uncertainty for what the future will hold for them and their loved ones. Some family members fear they will never have the opportunity to see their loved ones again, hug or kiss them again. Persons now living in this country not only fear for the safety of family members trying to enter this country but fear for their own safety as well. Fearing they too may be viewed as a threat to the country they now call home.

Many people that have not become legal citizens of this country live a life of fear, i.e., fear of being discovered and being deported.  A lot of people that are not legal citizens of this country also live a life of invisibility, working hard, but trying not to be noticed. Many undocumented immigrants work very hard to stay “invisible.” They avoid things that will call attention to themselves, or make people ask questions. They feel the need to blend in and disappear, because there’s safety in not being noticed.  

Sadly, many undocumented immigrants are often taken advantage of by the people they work for. Employers might feel free to pay low wages and ignore dangerous conditions, because the workers have no legal way of complaining. If they go to the authorities, they risk being arrested themselves and deported. If they complain or make trouble in other ways, the bosses can call immigration and have them deported. Landlords can do this too, forcing people to live in terrible conditions because they have no way to complain or fight back.

Most undocumented immigrants want to become citizens of their new countries, or at least get official documents that will allow them to remain in the country, work, and have access to benefits. However, to apply for these documents, they must make themselves “visible”, known to the very people that can impact whether or not they remain in the country. Some might feel that going through “legal channels” will have the opposite effect, that once the government knows about them they will be sent back to their home country.

It is not uncommon for many undocumented immigrants live in such intense fear of being discovered, that they often do without services that others take for granted. Services often taken for granted include; health/dental/vision insurance, enrolling their children in school, governmental assistance, higher paying jobs, appropriate housing, etc.  

Undocumented immigrants can live their whole lives in a country that they aren’t legally allowed to be in. Someone that grows up in a country such as the US that never becomes a citizen will be American in almost every way, but still not a citizen. Sometimes, children will grow up unaware that they’re not a legal citizen of their country, because their parents never told them their real immigration status. When it comes time for them to apply for college or jobs, they discover the truth-which often throws a big wrench into their plans for the future.

Myths Associated with Persons That Are Not Legal Citizens Include:

·         Most immigrants enter the country illegally (most people come here on a permanent or temporary visa)

·         Immigrants move to a new country to get on welfare or other governmental assistance

·         Immigrants bring crime to their new country

·         Immigrants are terrorists

·         Immigrants take jobs away from people who already live in a country

·         Immigrants do not want to comply with their new countries laws, learn the culture, or the language

·         Immigrants are not interested in becoming citizens of their new country

Family and friends of persons that reside in countries that have been identified as “terrorist hotbeds” face unusual stressors as they struggle to understand why the people they love are not being permitted to enter the country. Loved one’s struggle with mounting uncertainty and concern for the well-being and safety of their friends and family members as they are prevented from entering the country. Family and friends wonder what lies ahead for those that have not been allowed to enter this country, i.e., will they be permitted to enter this country and if so, when? Many people seeking to make a life for themselves in the US have sold almost everything they own, given up their homes, etc., to make a fresh start in this country. This country has often been praised as the land of opportunity for all those that work hard and strive for success. Yet a country that has turned many people away without providing a clear understanding of why they cannot make America their home. Uncertainty about the future can lead to increased confusion, sadness, and resentment for families that do not have clear answers as to the fate of family members that are prevented from entering the country. This uncertainty can lead to additional concerns about their own place and value in this country, promoting negative feelings of fear and anxiety.

How The Immigration Ban Affects Families

Bates-Duford, Ph.D., LMFT

My name is Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford PhD, LMFT, CRS, CMFSW, BCPC I have a PhD in forensic Psychology specializing in familial dysfunctions and traumatic experience. I work with individuals and families struggling with familial dysfunctions, trauma, rape, and incest. I also have a masters in Marriage, Couples, & Family therapy. I am a certified relationship specialist with American Psychotherapy Association (#15221). I have more than 15 years in the field of mental health, relationships, and behavioral sciences.

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APA Reference
Bates-Duford, T. (2017). How The Immigration Ban Affects Families. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2020, from


Last updated: 30 Jan 2017
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