TUCSON, Arizona – SB1070, the Arizona law that aims to criminalize undocumented immigrants, is causing an increase in cases of depression and stress, even among legal immigrants in the state, medical experts say.
“From a health standpoint, this law is affecting everyone equally, whether they have immigration documents or not, whether they are legal residents or even citizens, for its anti-immigrant and anti-Mexican bias,” United States-Mexico Border Health Commission representative Cecilia Rosales told Efe.
Dr. Rosales, a professor at the College of Public Health at the University of Arizona in Tucson, said that SB1070 is deeply affecting the Hispanic community in Arizona, causing health problems for individuals such as stress and depression, particularly among those who are undocumented and are afraid of being detained and deported.
“Stress is a tremendous thing, it causes physiological changes in the human body – it’s a fear that makes you feel as if someone is pointing a gun at you, and your body gets ready to run or defend itself,” the doctor said.
The expert described SB1070 as a source of daily stress that not only affects undocumented people but also their families.
“There are many immigrant families that we describe as mixed, in which the parents are undocumented but the children are U.S. citizens. Nonetheless, the stress affecting the parents is transmitted to the children,” she said.
Rosales said that these families should have a plan to be able to react in case they are detained and handed over to immigration.
“They have to live every day with the uncertainty of going to work and not knowing if they will return home,” she said.
The doctor fears that this stress and the constant physiological change will, in the long term, cause these people to develop illnesses such as psychological problems, hypertension, cardiac arrest, that not only affect the health of a person as an individual, but the health of the entire community.
She added that due to the fear that exists in the community, many parents don’t seek the benefits of medical care for their U.S.-born children, for fear that their own immigration status will be questioned.
“These children who are citizens are not getting their vaccinations or primary care, and, for that reason, they put everyone’s health in danger,” Rosales said.
Because they don’t get preventive medical care, the children can end up in hospital emergency rooms where medical costs are much higher.
SB1070 is the first state law in the United States that criminalizes the presence of undocumented immigrants and obliges police departments to verify the immigration status of anyone they “suspect” of being illegally in the United States.
Though a federal judge blocked several sections of SB1070, relations between the Hispanic community and police departments have been affected.
Rosales said that if anything positive has come out of the passing of SB1070, it is the increased attention by the Mexican government to the effects the Arizona statute is having on communities on both sides of the border.
Sergio Olivares, researcher and historian, told Efe that farm workers are also being affected by laws like SB1070 independently of their immigration status. EFE