and, on occasion, drove without one — knowing that any
traffic stop could result in her and her parents being deported.
She “came out” to only a few people. “One person said,
‘Why don’t you just become a citizen?’” says Ana, with a sigh.
“It gets so tiring having to explain everything” — how difficult
it is for an undocumented person to get a green card; or,
even if that were possible, how you wouldn’t want to notify
authorities you exist and risk exposing other family members
to possible deportation; how expensive the process is and how
long it takes.
And of course DREAMers cannot “go home,” points out
Judith Glassgold, PhD, director of government relations in
APA’s Public Intereste Directorate. “Most were raised, educated
and have roots in this country. They may not speak the
language of their parents’ country fluently or at all and may
not be culturally attuned to their parents’ homeland.”
After Ana earned her bachelor’s degree, she moved home,
unsure what her future might hold and unable to get a job.
She became depressed enough to enter therapy, but says the
therapist didn’t seem to understand DREAMer issues, so Ana
talked about other things in her life rather than the limbo in
which she felt lost.
Now, Ana is in the first year of a counseling psychology
PhD program, where she hopes to research the mental health
concerns faced by undocumented people in the United States.
“When you are undocumented, I think most of us become
depressed,” says Jong-Min You, another undocumented
immigrant whose story is similar to Ana’s. He was brought
to the United States by his parents at age one and didn’t find
out he was undocumented until he was 17. Obama’s executive
order is a relief for Jong-Min, now 33, because he now qualifies
for protection from deportation. He plans to pursue a law
degree and hopes one day to become a judge, if he is able to
become a citizen.
Before the executive action was announced, Jong-Min spoke
of the stress and frustration he has endured due to his status.
“You live in this invisible prison, stuck behind these
invisible bars. I can’t drive, vote, study abroad or get a great-
paying job,” he says. “You think about what your peers can
do and you can’t, so you sit in your invisible prison and get
Obama’s action will help, says Jong-Min, but doesn’t
address the larger question of how to achieve citizenship.
“The depression issue is mostly in the past for me, but I’m still
frustrated by the immigration system.”
The fate of immigration reform measures remains
uncertain, while an immigration reform bill passed the Senate
prior to the election it has yet to be voted upon by the House.
A path forward on immigration is uncertain given policy
differences between the two parties. n
Lorna Collier is a journalist in Chicago.
APA’s report on
the psychology of immigration
In 2011, then-president Melba J. T. Vasquez,
PhD, charged the APA Presidential Task Force
an evidence-based report that
factors related to
the experience of
to the mental
health needs of
the lifespan, and
the effects of
prejudice/discrimination and immigration
policy on individuals, families and society.
Crossroads: The Psychology of Immigration
in the New Century aims to provide
psychological researchers, practitioners,
educators and graduate students with an
understanding of the psychological process
of immigration and the demographic
transformation underway in American
society. It also dispels common myths about
immigrants and emphasizes the need to
value the unique attributes and contributions
of immigrant populations, particularly with
regard to culture and language.
The goals of the report are to:
• Raise awareness about the increasing
immigrant population in the United States.
• Derive evidence-informed
recommendations for the provision of mental
health services to immigrants.
• Make recommendations to improve
education, research, practice and policy
affecting immigrants of all ages and
To read the report, go to www.apa.org/