Policing Us Sick: The Health of Latinos in an Era of Heightened Deportations and Racialized Policing

Policing Us Sick: The Health of Latinos in an Era of Heightened Deportations and Racialized Policing

by Vanessa Cruz Nichols, Indiana University, Alana M. W. LeBrón, University of California, Irvine, and Francisco I. Pedraza, University of California, Riverside

In 2016, Donald Trump campaigned for more restrictive immigration enforcement, including stronger border security, mass deportations, and an end to birthright citizenship (Johnson 2016). Since Trump has taken office, immigrant communities have experienced heightened anxiety corresponding with increased policing. Although US immigration enforcement is intended to target individuals whose presence in the United States is unauthorized and who are classified as “high priority” (e.g., accused of more violent criminal offenses)(Rocha, Knoll, and Wrinkle 2015; Cruz Nichols, LeBrón, and Pedraza 2018b), the spillover consequences of detentions and deportations are much broader than those deemed “high priority” and affect various aspects of life for Latinos, including those who have birthright or naturalized US citizenship (Cruz Nichols, LeBrón, and Pedraza 2018a; 2018b; Pedraza, Cruz Nichols and LeBrón 2017). Indeed, Latin American immigrants represent 96% of all deportations from the United States since 2010 (Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse 2014). Notably, 61% of Latinos report knowing someone who is undocumented, and 36% know someone who has experienced immigration detention or deportation (Sanchez, Pedraza, and Vargas 2015). This article examines the consequences of deportation threats and racialized policing environments relative to the health of Latinos, specifically focusing on knowing someone who is undocumented or who has been deported.

The proliferation of immigration enforcement operations in the United States is exemplified by the intergovernmental information-sharing Secure Communities (SComm) program (Cruz Nichols, LeBrón, and Pedraza 2018b).1 SComm coordinates federal and local law-enforcement resources to identify, detain, and eventually deport immigrants without authorized US status. Although the stated focus is on those with a criminal charge, the majority of people processed through SComm have minor infractions (Kohli and Chavez 2013). Additionally, early participation in SComm coordination efforts has been correlated with sizable Latino populations, not crime (Cox and Miles 2013). Given the growth of immigrant policing through daily encounters with local police, we relied on pre- and post-2016 election surveys and SComm data to examine the health implications of deportations under SComm and the perceived racialized policing of Latinos—a crucial topic often neglected in existing political science discussions on the scope of policy effects.

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PS: Political Science & Politics / Volume 51 / Issue 2 / April 2018