How to Deal with Fear of Deportation
Millions of immigrants share the same fear: that any given moment, you or someone you care about could be detained and deported. Greater restrictions and more focus on immigration reform may cause you to worry about being snatched away from the life you've built and sent back to a country where you may be in danger of political violence, or face greater job scarcity. If you fear deportation, take measures to get support, lower your stress and anxiety, and prepare in case the worst happens.
Call or visit the immigration advocacy center in your area.Most larger cities have resource centers dedicated to assisting immigrants. Such centers can help you understand your rights, help you complete paperwork, and connect you with other needed resources in the community, such as medical or mental health care.
- Conduct an online search for non-profit organizations that advocate for immigrants to find brick and mortar centers in your area.
- InformedImmigrant.com is one website that offers resources to immigrants. Reach out to them to learn more about how they can help.
- They may also be able to help you start the process for becoming a full citizen, which could help put your mind at ease.
Build community with others like you.Many immigrants feel isolated in their communities, yet fearful of reaching out to others for help. Connecting with others like yourself can help you feel empowered and provide a source of much-needed support.
Join a support group.The increased media attention on immigration reform has led to various organizations offering support to immigrants. Locate a support group in your area or online and start attending meetings.
Dealing with Stress and Anxiety
Practice self-care.Chronic stress can have detrimental effects on the health and wellbeing of you and your family. Manage stress by incorporating more self-care activities into your daily routine.
Get in touch with your spirituality.If you have spiritual beliefs, you might build faith and find comfort in your spirituality. Try praying, meditating, or reading spiritual texts to help you deal with fear of deportation.
- A place of worship may also offer social support and practical resources, such as donated clothing or toiletries.
See a mental health professional.There are many nonprofit organizations specially designed to assist immigrants. Many of these organizations employ professional counselors. Ask someone at your local immigrant/refugee advocacy center or place of worship to connect you with a counselor.
- A counselor can act as an unbiased listening ear and help you overcome negative thinking that increases your fears about deportation.
- Be sure to see a multicultural therapist who is specially trained to deal with the unique struggles of immigrants or foreigners.
- If you are low-income, you may be able to receive mental health services free or at a reduced rate.
Start the process for becoming a legal resident or citizen.If you are undocumented, meet with an immigration advocate to get help with your situation. You may have options for seeking legal status, depending on your situation and the laws of the country. They will be able to advise you about the possible avenues available to you.
- If you are in the country legally on a temporary basis, talk to your advocate about what your options will be for a longer stay or what steps you could take to re-enter the country if you do have to leave.
- For example, in the United States, you may be able to apply for asylum. Alternatively, you could receive a visa if you are the victim of a crime or a green card through marriage to a U.S. citizen. There are limitations to these options, however, that you will need to discuss with your advocate.
- Before you apply for status, speak with an experienced immigration lawyer. You should be able to contact a lawyer through the immigration advocacy center you are working with.
Creating a Preparedness Plan
Stay informed about your rights.Constantly tuning into the media can add to your stress, but it's important to stay informed. Keep yourself updated on the most recent policies affecting immigrants, so you'll know your rights.
- For instance, you may not know that you are not required to let immigrations officers into your home unless they have a signed warrant. In addition, many cities offer protections from arrest in various places, such as schools, churches, and courthouses.
- Visit the official website for your state or country to get the most current information about your rights as an immigrant. Websites like the National Immigration Law Center can also provide useful information.
Assess your risk of being deported.To fully understand your risk, talk to a licensed immigration attorney in your area. This type of lawyer can review your case and help determine if there is a high likelihood of you being deported.
- Reach out to places in your area that serve immigrants, such as churches, advocacy centers, and other non-profit organizations to get free or low-cost legal advice.
- Your attorney may not be able to offer a guarantee, but there expertise into your situation may give you some peace of mind.
Identify people who can look after your children.In case the worst happens and you are detained, you'll want to develop a plan to keep your children safe. Figure out who among your friends and family would be willing to take in your children. Have their deportation risk evaluated to be sure they are a reliable choice.
- For instance, if you have older children or relatives who have citizenship, you might place your minor children under their care.
Document important info.If you are detained, you want to make sure your children can be properly cared for. Assemble any important documents such as birth certificates, social security cards, and insurance papers. Record the names of their doctors and teachers. Also, list any medications they may require.
- Store these documents in a secure place such as in a safe-deposit box or with a "safe" relative so they can be retrieved if necessary.
Instruct older children on what to do if the worst happens.It will be heart-breaking to have to discuss this with your children, but you'll want them (at least the eldest of them) to know what to do in case you are detained.
- Sit down with at least your oldest child and walk them through a protocol to follow in the event of your arrest.
- For example, you might request that they take the important documents and go to a relative or friend’s house.
- You might also grant power of attorney to a friend or family member to care for their children if you are deported.
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