Immigrant Rights Groups focus on mental health of undocumented youth

“A Dream Deferred” panel will explore the mental health implications of being undocumented—urging educators, counselors, and community organizers to take action to address the issue.

A panel of community organizers, youth, researchers, and mental health experts will explore the mental health implications of being undocumented.

The event will be held today, Tuesday, November 1, 2011, 3:30-6:30 p.m., at the Adler School of Professional Psychology, 17 N. Dearborn, 15th Floor. The event is intended for community organizers, school counselors and staff, undocumented youth, and others interested in learning about and taking action on these issues.
Last December as Congress considered a vote on the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, the Immigrant Youth Justice League (IYJL) spoke out about the connection between mental health and the experience of living undocumented. When Congress failed to pass this legislation, groups around the country shifted their focus to efforts to support undocumented students in the states.

In Illinois, an effort led by undocumented students, university presidents, religious leaders, and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) resulted in the passage of the Illinois Dream Act, a bill that creates a private scholarship fund for immigrant youth and gives counselors the skills to work with them.

Yet few efforts have zeroed in on the unique mental health challenges faced by young people whose careers and dreams are thwarted by their immigration status. This results in high rates of depression and suicide. This panel seeks to introduce the issue and call for organization and action to support undocumented youth and address these mental health needs.

The presenters will include:

Dr. Roberto Gonzales, University of Chicago professor whose work focuses on undocumented youth experience and organizing; Reyna Wences, Immigrant Youth Justice League (IYJL) organizer; Jacqueline Luna, Social Worker at Heartland Alliance’s Violence Recovery Services based in McKinely Park neighborhood, works with IYJL to support mental health initiatives; Dr. Sonali Gupta, mental health expert working with asylum seekers and a faculty member at the Adler School of Professional Psychology.

“A Dream Deferred: The Mental Health Implications of Being an Undocumented Youth” is part of an ongoing collaboration among the Institute for Public Safety and Social Justice at the Adler School of Professional Psychology and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. This event was also co-sponsored by the Immigrant Youth Justice League.