Seizing the Circumstances: Adult Reflections on Parental Deportation

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Virginia Tech


Currently there are 4.5 million U.S.-born children with at least one undocumented parent who are at risk of being deported (Passel and Cohn, 2011). The sudden loss caused by parental deportation destabilizes families and causes emotional distress, conduct issues, and academic decline in children (Dreby, 2012). Given the negative impact that deportation has on children and the recent increase of immigration efforts under the current administration (Cervantes, Ullrich, and Matthews, 2018), this study aimed to explore the long-term impacts of deportation on Latino children. This study used an interpretive phenomenological approach and retrospective interviews to gain understanding of how adults who experienced parental deportation as children made meaning of their experiences over time. Ten Latino adults who had a parent deported when they were between the ages of 7 and 17 were interviewed in depth about their parent's deportation, the long-term impact on their families and childhood, and how they made sense of those experiences as adults. Findings suggest that adults who have had a parent deported during childhood experienced long-term loss throughout their childhood, noticed their parent's absence more as they got older, and felt a lack of guidance while growing up. While some participants reported depression, anxiety or misconduct in childhood, positive beliefs about the experience emerged from the data that demonstrated resiliency. Implications for clinical practice and intervention are discussed. Researchers also make recommendations for future research.



Latinos, parental deportation, resilience, ambiguous loss