Nature of Survival: Emerging Themes from Migrant Journeywomen and Implications for Social Policy

This is the third guest post from Dr. Emily Bashah, who worked with Florence Project staff to prepare clinical summaries and statements in support of VAWA and UVISA applications. She currently works under supervision of forensic psychologists, Dr. Toma and Dr. Kirkley, providing culturally competent psychological evaluations for immigrants, refugees, or asylum seekers held in Florence detention centers.

This post was originally published in Psychology Today.

By Emily T. Bashah, Louise M. Baca and Karen L. Suyemoto

Author Note
This posting is dedicated to the many immigrants and families who suffered any form of cultural oppression, ethnic intolerance, social injustice, human rights abuses, persecution, and spiritual suffering.

The following blog posting is a third publication from the authors’ series on the lived experiences of undocumented Latinas who journey across the Southwestern U.S. border.  Previous postings identified social policy needs and recommendations. It was followed up by an article containing excerpts from the narratives of the women themselves that speak to the vast injustices and human rights abuses they experience, as well as protective factors, strengths, and resiliencies.  Testimonials from deported Latinas were provided by the Kino Border Initiative, a cross-border humanitarian organization based in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. They supplied a randomized sample (N = 57) of testimonials from deported Latinas living in a women’s shelter within 2010-2011.

The following article contains more descriptive and detailed results from the qualitative analysis (NVivo® software, 2015).  The figure below displays the cycle of temporal periods with embedded and interactive external and internal components, both with beneficial and harmful impacts upon undocumented Latinas. The outer temporal cycle is meant to demonstrate that women can cycle through stages of the journey many times, as was often described in the multiple attempts women made crossing the border with numerous captures and deportations.  The inner circle represents domain categories that influence the women’s lived experiences no matter what stage they were in.  Domains that emerged from the testimonials fell into two major distinct categories: (1) environmental and interpersonal events (external components), and (2) intrapsychic responses (internal components).  These domains are further broken down into the table displayed below, which illustrates that within each domain are (a) beneficial and (b) harmful subdomains.  For instance, within the environmental and interpersonal domain, the authors found beneficial impacts included spirituality, support and solidarity; and harmful impacts included violence, violation, and victimization. Within the intrapsychic domain, the authors found beneficial impacts included resilience and hope, and harmful impacts included pain and loss. Detailed themes from the subdomains and descriptions are also provided in the table below.

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Implications for Social Policy

As evidenced by the women’s testimonial themes, more just and humane policies are needed to provide immigrants rights to live and work in the U.S. with legal options and protections. Implications of this study provides empirical evidence for the following:

  • Support for sociopolitical prevention and intervention measures.
  • Influence policy on immigration reform that addresses a needs assessment from the lived experiences of immigrants that consider specific intersections of gender and culture.
  • Improve accountability standards at the point of capture, detention and deportation processes.
  • Improve social justice and legal protections against human rights abuses by customs and border patrol agents.
  • Uphold human rights, dignity, and welfare of all, irrespective of immigration status.

References

Bashah, E. T., Baca, L. M., & Suyemoto, K. L. (2015).  Undocumented Latinas’ cross-border experiences: A qualitative study of detained/deported immigrants & implications for social policy. Manuscript in preparation.

NVivo Qualitative Data Analysis Software (2015). QSR International Pty Ltd. (Version 10) [Computer Software]. Available from qsrinternational.com/default.aspx (link is external)

Authors:

Emily T. Bashah, Psy.D., Arizona School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University

Louise M. Baca, Ph.D., Arizona School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University

Karen L. Suyemoto, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts, Boston

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