1 in 6 Immigrant Families Avoiding 'Routine Activities,' From Driving to Reporting Crimes, Over Fear of Deportation, Study Finds

Under the Trump administration, at least one in six migrant families is avoiding "routine activities," from driving to reporting crimes to police, out of fear of being arrested by immigration authorities. That's the finding of a new study.

"Changes in federal immigration policies and heightened immigration enforcement over the last several years have caused fear and insecurity for many immigrant families across the country," researchers with the Urban Institute said in their new study.

"In addition to stories of rising fear among families reported in the
press, several studies have documented evidence of widespread anxiety and instability among immigrant families and children," they said.

Driven by those fears and anxieties, nearly 17 percent of the surveyed 2,000 adults who are either foreign-born or live with one or more foreign-born family members in the U.S. told researchers with the Urban Institute they had "avoided activities in which they could be asked or bothered about citizen status."

"The activities avoided most were those that risk interaction with police or other
public authorities, such as driving a car (9.9 percent), renewing or applying for a driver's license (9.0 percent), and talking to the police or reporting crime (8.3 percent)," the study states.

Others, however, avoided more general activities, such as "going to public places, like parks, libraries, or stores (7.8 percent); visiting a doctor or clinic (6.3 percent); using public transportation (5.8 percent); and talking with teachers or school officials (4.7 percent)."

In families where members had a "more vulnerable visa and citizenship status," the study found, the number rose to 33 percent, with respondents reporting that they or a family member avoided "at least one routine activity."

"Meanwhile, over one in nine adults in families where all foreign-born family members have green cards or US citizenship reported this behavior," researchers said.

Hispanic adults, they found, were nearly three times more likely (24.2 percent) than non-Hispanic white adults (8.5 percent) to report avoiding some activities.

"Avoidance of some activities was especially common among adults in families in which one or more foreign-born relatives are not permanent residents or citizens, at 32.8 percent," researchers said. "This group was nearly three times more likely to report avoiding these activities than adults in relatively secure families
(where all foreign-born relatives have permanent residency or are naturalized US citizens)."

However, this retreat from public spaces also occurs among immigrant families with more secure immigration and citizenship statuses. Even within families where all foreign-born relatives have green cards or are naturalized, more than one in nine adults (11.7 percent) reported that they or their
relatives had avoided specified activities in the previous year."

"This illustrates the ripple effects of immigration policies and the generalized fear
within immigrant communities; even green card holders and naturalized citizens experience insecurity," they said.

The study's findings come as the Trump administration continues to enforce its hardline immigration policy at the border and within the U.S.

Recently, a number of controversial arrests and attempted arrests have shone a spotlight on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency's ongoing crackdown on immigrant families with court-ordered removals, including one incident on Monday that saw an ICE agent smash the window of a family vehicle, before dragging out a father who refused to exit the car without seeing an administrative warrant, which the agent refused to produce.

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's special agent prepares to arrest immigrants at Fresh Mark, Salem, June 19, 2018. Smith Collection/Getty