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Protecting Unauthorized Immigrant Parents Improves the Mental Health of their Children

The United States (US) is embroiled in a debate about whether to protect or deport its estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants, but the fact that these immigrants are also parents to more than 4 million US-born children is often overlooked. We provide causal evidence of the impact of parents’ unauthorized immigration status on the health of their US citizen children. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program granted tem- porary protection from deportation to more than 780,000 unauthorized im- migrants. We use Medicaid claims data from Oregon and exploit the quasi- random assignment of DACA eligibility among mothers with birthdates close to the DACA age qualification cutoff. Mothers’ DACA eligibility significantly decreased adjustment and anxiety disorder diagnoses among their children. Parents’ unauthorized status is consequently a significant barrier to child de- velopment and perpetuates health inequalities through the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage. 

 

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