Upfront

Forty million immigrants, 11 million undocumented immigrants, five percent of the U.S. workforce — such numbers dominate the national conversation on immigration reform. But in the new APA video "Undocumented Americans" three young adults offer a more personal view of what it is like to be a teen in America without the ability to get a driver's license or a summer job.

The video, initiated by the recommendations of the APA Presidential Task Force on Immigration report and produced by APA's Children, Youth and Families Office, tells the story of three young adults who immigrated to the United States as children. Jong-Min was born in Korea, and Silvia and Pedro emigrated from Mexico. Each describes the challenges of avoiding detention and deportation, pursuing higher education and keeping themselves and their families safe while undocumented.

"Our goal was to really put a face on the immigrant experience," says Lauren Fasig, PhD, JD, director of APA's Children, Youth and Families Office. "We want to reinforce the idea that there are a large number of people who have been living here as a part of our society and they deserve to be treated as people, as individuals."

The video also addresses mental health consequences associated with undocumented status, including fear of deportation, trauma related to detainment and feelings of isolation, depression and anxiety. Many undocumented youth also struggle to develop a sense of identity and belonging since they are caught between two generations and two cultures, says Task Force Chair Carola Suárez-Orozco, PhD.

In addition to raising public awareness, the video aims to inspire psychologists to offer therapy to undocumented immigrants and study the challenges faced by this population, says Efua Andoh, of APA's Public Interest Directorate. "There's a great contribution that psychologists can make," she says.

—Anna Miller