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It’s been well publicized that deportations have skyrocketed over the last decade. Over 3 million undocumented immigrants were deported between 2005 and 2013 alone. But less discussed are the estimated 1.5 million American citizen children who have been affected by a parent’s removal. That number comes from Dr. Luis H. Zayas, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, who chronicles the mental health consequences of deportations on children in his new book Forgotten Citizens: Deportation, Children, and the Making Of American Exiles and Orphans.


In researching his book, he studied two groups of children. One group he calls the “orphans” — those who are left in the U.S. to fend for themselves when one or more parent is deported. The other are the “exiles,” U.S. citizen children who return to Mexico with their parents. Both groups, he says, tend to suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety and depression that go on to affect their development. Ultimately, he argues that the U.S. government should make the psychological needs of these citizen children more of a priority when developing and executing immigration policy.

Luis H. Zayas joins Maria Hinojosa for a conversation about mental health, children, and one case for reducing deportations.

zayas headshot

Luis H. Zayas is Dean and Robert Lee Sutherland Chair in Mental Health and Social Policy at the University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work. Specializing in minority and immigrant families and children, his research has appeared in numerous scientific journals and has been reported widely in newspapers, television, radio and other news outlets. He is the author of Latinas Attempting Suicide: When Cultures, Families, and Daughters Collide. Zayas is a Fellow of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare


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