Immigration and Trauma: Examining Coping and Resiliency Among Latina/o Immigrants
Latinas/os are the largest racial/ethnic minority group, accounting for 16% of the U.S. population (Census, 2010). Between 2000 and 2010, more than half of the growth in the United States was due in part to Latinas/os (Census, 2010). Historically, the immigration process for Latina/o immigrants has been known to cause significant distress and to present perilous obstacles. Specifically, traumatic experiences and stressors while crossing the U.S./Mexico border were commonly found among Latinas/os (Shattell et al., 2008). In regards to rates of trauma, Fortuna, Porche, & Alegria (2008) found that 76% of Latina/o immigrants have had other traumatic experiences such as personal, physical, and sexual violence, in addition to political violence. With increasing immigration rates and significantly high trauma rates, it is important to analyze coping mechanisms and resiliency amongst Latina/o immigrants who experience adverse events as they transition into the United States. Cultural values and their influence on coping amongst Latina/o immigrants are often shaped by cultural and individual differences, also influencing the perception of what resources are available and acceptable for individuals (Bonnano, 2004). Latina/o cultural values, particularly amongst Mexican individuals, enact family and religious rituals that create a sense of collectivism, support, and ?familismo,? which ultimately emphasizes the prominence of support (Cervantes & Ramirez, 1992). Although familismo support has been vital to the transition process of Latina/o immigrants in the United States, there is limited literature on coping mechanisms they use. The research on coping suggests that Latinas/os engage in positive reinterpretation, focusing and venting emotions, social support, active coping, religion, emotional support, and planning as ways to cope, and those mechanisms were associated with positive physical and psychological health (Vaughn & Roesch, 2003). Additionally, Lucid (2010) reported that self-affirmation coping was a common Latina/o cultural value, which was found through religious faith. However, the limited research previously conducted on Latina/o coping strategies has primarily targeted college students, leaving a large portion of the Latina/o population less studied. The immigration experience is daunting and traumatic as Latinas/os encounter unknown terrain. This exploratory paper summarizes available literature relating to trauma, coping, and resiliency among Latina/o immigrants and suggests next steps for interventions. Additionally, this paper will introduce and explore the various types of trauma experienced by Latinas/os www.cambio.missouri.edu/Library/ 94 Cambio de Colores/Change of Colors | 2012 Conference Proceedings Immigration and Trauma: An Overview Latina/os are the largest racial/ethnic minority group, accounting for 16% of the U.S. population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). Between 2000 and 2010, more than half of the growth in the United States was due in part to Latina/os (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). According to the Department of Homeland Security Report (2009), Mexican and Central American immigrants together account for 37% of all U.S. immigrants (4.7% of the total U.S. population). Given the high influx of Latina/os that are arriving in the United States, it is important to assess the likelihood that traveling immigrants will experience dangers, obstacles, and trauma. In addition, Latina/o immigrants experience discrimination not only in the United States upon arrival, but also within their home countries (Fortuna, Porche, & Alegria, 2008; Finch, Kolody, &Vega, 2000). This may serve as one factor towards increasing motivation to immigrate. Therefore, it is vital to examine the various dangers and traumas experienced during the immigration process and the negative psychological and behavioral effects on Latina/o immigrants. This exploratory paper summarizes the available literature relating to trauma, coping, and resiliency among Latina/o immigrants and suggests next steps for interventions. There are a vast number of perilous obstacles that Latina/os may face en route to the United States when traveling from their home countries. The dangers encountered by undocumented immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border consist of environmental conditions (heat and cold injuries), traumatic injuries (dehydration), and encounters with wild animals (DeLuca, McEwen, & Keim, 2008). However, there are additional traumatic events that Latina/o immigrants may encounter en route to the United States. Traumatic events can also include, but are not limited to, deaths of others who are traveling in the same group, encounters with border patrol, physical injuries, physical assault at the hands of their coyote, and sexual abuse (DeLuca et al., 2008). Also, DeLuca et al. (2008) reported that even with the known dangers and potential adversity, 63% of their sample stated that they would attempt crossing a second and third time if they were not successful on the first attempt. An encounter with such experiences during immigration may increase the likelihood of experiencing some form of psychological distress and negative behavioral outcomes. Historically, the immigration process for Latina/os has been known to cause significant distress and present hazardous obstacles. Specifically, traumatic experiences and stressors while crossing the U.S.-Mexico border were commonly found among Latina/os (Shattell et al., 2008). In regards to rates of trauma, 76% of Latina/o immigrants have experienced other traumatic experiences such as personal, physical, and sexual violence in addition to political violence (Fortuna, Porche, & Alegria, 2008). With regard to sexual trauma, Cuevas and Sabina?s (2010) research suggests that lifetime rates of sexual assault may be as high as 17.2% among Latina women, whereas research among Latino men is virtually nonexistent. The rates of personal, physical, and sexual violence warrant further investigation regarding sexual assault, in addition to the research that has been conducted on political violence. This does not suggest that personal, physical, and sexual violence are weighted higher in severity of psychological distress among Latina/o immigrants than political violence, rather, it is necessary to continue the examination of all possible traumas that may be experienced. Trauma and violence are additional societal concerns in Latin American countries. With Keywords: immigrant trauma, migration issues, violence toward immigrants during migration that include (but are not limited to) exposure to political violence, psychosocial trauma, sexual violence, and witnessing violence (Fortuna, Porche, & Alegria, 2008).