Impact of anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies on frontline health and social service providers in Southeast Michigan, U.S.A

Publication Abstract

Mesa, Hannah, Monika Doshi, William Lopez, Richard Bryce, Raymond Rion, Ellen Rabinowitz, and Paul J. Fleming. 2020. "Impact of anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies on frontline health and social service providers in Southeast Michigan, U.S.A." Health & Social Care in the Community, n/a(n/a).

Rising hostility towards immigrants characterised the 2016 Presidential election in the United States (US) and subsequent policy priorities by the new presidential administration. The political shift towards aggressive policies targeting undocumented immigrants is far-reaching and extends into other communities that convive con-or coexist with-immigrant communities. Our study aims to examine the rippling effects of these anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric on health and social service providers in Southeast Michigan who predominantly serve Latino immigrants. Between April and August 2018, we conducted in-depth individual interviews in two Federally Qualified Health Centers and a non-profit social service agency at a county health department. We interviewed 28 frontline health and social service providers. After coding and thematic analyses, we found that staff members' experiences in supporting immigrant clients was congruent with definitions of secondary trauma stress and compassion fatigue, whereby exposure to clients' trauma combined with job burden subsequently impacted the mental health of providers. Major themes included: (a) frontline staff experienced a mental and emotional burden in providing services to immigrant clients given the restrictive anti-immigrant context; and (b) this burden was exacerbated by the increased difficulties in providing these services to their clients. Staff described psychological and emotional distress stemming from exposure to clients' immigration-related trauma and increased mental health needs. This distress was exacerbated by an increased demand to meet clients' needs, which involved explaining or translating documents into English, assisting with legal paperwork, referring clients to mental health resources, addressing increased transportation barriers, and reestablishing trust with the community. Our findings add qualitative data on the mental health implications for frontline providers who support Latino immigrant clients impacted by immigration and highlights the need for further research and resources that address the workplace-related stress generated by heightened immigration enforcement.


health and social services immigration secondary trauma stress

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