This is an insight written by Jackson Devadas on the recent Bahá’í Chair for World Peace Lecture, “The Immigration Officers Are Always Around!” held at the University of Maryland on February 25, 2020.
Listening to Dr. Getrich’s talk, I could not help but feel an immense sadness growing inside of me. To hear stories of countless families dealing with the constant threat of having to uproot their lives at any moment was distressing. So many of us live in realities in which we never have to worry about being profiled or deported; we believe that we are so far removed from the border. However, throughout the years the border has slowly migrated inwards. Now, the border is no longer just a geographical location, the border as a construct has permeated our society. As of late, there has been an increase in the amount of mobile technology (e.g. home raids and workplace raids) and subtle (and not so subtle) xenophobic policy changes that target undocumented folks.
Additionally, during the talk, my mind went immediately to police brutality and the targeting of black folks in this country. I have had lengthy discussions and courses about ways in which the United States polices black bodies at disproportionately harsher and higher rates in comparison to other racial groups. Even though this issue is seen as controversial, there seems to be much more attention paid to it than the policing of undocumented and DACA citizens. Many Americans believe that undocumented people are breaking the law and deserve to be punished and treated harshly. Therefore the framing around this issue is much less nuanced and much more one-sided.
Also, I appreciate Dr. Getrich’s research because it allows us to understand the lived experiences of this invisible population and see patterns of mental illness. As someone who is interested in researching mental illness within marginalized communities, Dr. Getrich’s research is of great personal interest to me. It was amazing to see that she performed a longitudinal analysis of this sample and saw how mental illness followed them throughout their lives. Residual trauma and anxiety from constant surveillance throughout their adolescence stayed with them and guided so much of their future decision-making. This data not only elucidates the effects of trauma on this specific community but how trauma inflicts damage on so many historically oppressed and marginalized communities.
Finally, one of the most saddening things that I learned more from this lecture, was the increasing presence of policing in our local College Park and DC communities. Oftentimes, the media makes issues of immigration seem distant and not of any concern to a majority of American communities. However, with this most recent presidential administration, it has become more apparent how large of a presence immigration enforcement has in communities across the country. Countless individuals across the country live in fear of being harassed and detained every day. American citizens have a real opportunity to advocate for their neighbors and ensure that all people who reside within our borders are treated with dignity and respect.
You can watch the video of the lecture on our youtube page here.
About the Author
Jackson Devadas is a junior at the University of Maryland, studying biology and statistics. He is interested in using epidemiological techniques to help improve mental health outcomes of marginalized groups (i.e. racial minorities, LGBT individuals, etc.) in a global context.