APA Resolution on Immigrant Children, Youth, and Families

Whereas the largest proportion of the population of the United States of America is composed of people whose ancestors immigrated to this country from other lands (Fix & Passel, 1994);

Whereas immigrants to the United States, categorized as foreign-born in the U.S. Bureau of the Census reports, are a diverse group including both documented and undocumented individuals who make up 8% of the current population (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1993) and include 2.1 million foreign-born children who together with second-generation immigrant children constitute the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population under age 15 (Fix & Zimmerman, 1993; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1996);

Whereas the experience of immigration has immediate implications for the psychological and social well-being of individuals and families (Beiser, 1988; Westermeyer, Williams, and Neguyen, 1991) which are especially intense for children, people of color, people of the impoverished socioeconomic classes (Fix & Passel, 1994), as well as women (Yee, 1997; Yee, Huang, & Lew, in press), lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons (Espin, 1997; Patterson, 1995), and individuals with disabilities;

Whereas immigrants to the United States experience unique stresses, prejudice, and poverty and can be considered at-risk subpopulations for health, emotional and behavioral problems (Eisenbruch, 1988; Williams & Berry, 1991) as well as, in the case of children, learning and academic difficulties (Rousseau, Drapeau, and Corin, 1996);

Whereas 23.4% of all foreign-born residents including children and youth, who entered the United States from 1980 to 1990 are now at or below the poverty level, as compared to 9.5% of the native (i.e., U.S.-born) population (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1993);

Whereas in addition to poverty, the challenges of exploitation and isolation are faced by some immigrants, such as service workers from Asia and Haiti (Andersen, 1997; Amott & Matthaei, 1991); and migrant farm workers from Mexico and Central or South America (Olivera, Effland, & Hamm, 1993) whose children often leave school to enter the migrant stream to work with their parents, since few states set minimum age limits for child farm labor (Fuentes, 1974; DiPerna, 1981; Martinez, Scott, Cranston-Gingras, & Platt, 1994; Wilk, 1986);

Whereas mental health-related issues, particularly stress associated with trauma, acculturation to language, economics, health care, education, religion, as well as encounters with both individual and institutional bias, are faced consistently by foreign-born residents of this country (Kraut, 1994; Portes & Rumbaut, 1996) and differential degrees of acculturation within immigrant families can negatively affect family communication and even evoke conflict, particularly between parents and their adolescent offspring (Pedersen, Draguns, Lonner, and Trimble, 1996; Ponterotto, Casas, Suzuki, and Alexander, 1995);

Whereas health, disease-specific prevention -- particularly HIV prevention and treatment (Ryan, Tapscott, Carde, Havenner, Keene, Smith, & Bell , 1992) -- mental health, and social services are under-utilized by foreign-born resident populations (Beiser, 1988), especially refugees (Beiser, 1988), migrant workers, and undocumented immigrants (Wilk, 1986), and such services are unavailable in many locations;

Whereas foreign immigration has periodically evoked in the citizenry negative perceptions and feelings that find expression in executive and legislative initiatives that attempt to limit immigrants' civil rights and access to public benefits such as education and other human services for children, youth, and families (Board on Children and Families, 1995; Degler, 1970; Goldenberg, 1996);

Whereas a review of the literature in American psychology journals shows scant attention to these issues while policies and programs for immigrant children, youth, and families are being established despite the paucity of scientific data on this population (Board on Children and Families, 1995);

Therefore be it resolved that the American Psychological Association, an organization that is committed to promoting the psychological well-being of children, youth, and families:

  1. advocates for the development of a scientific data base concerning the adaptation, development, education, health, and mental health, as well as the social impact and contributions, of immigrant and refugee populations;

  2. supports efforts to increase funding for research about the adaptation, development, education, health, and mental health of diverse immigrant children, youth, and families;

  3. promotes and facilitates psychologists' acquisition of competencies, including relevant cultural knowledge, attitude, and skills in providing services to and conducting research on immigrant children, youth, and families;

  4. advocates and promotes efforts to increase the availability of and access to educational, health, mental health, and social services for immigrant children, youth, and families; and

  5. promotes and supports public policies that recognize and provide for the psychosocial needs of immigrant children, youth, and families.


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