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Mental health of undocumented college students worst hit by COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has induced intense financial and life stress besides its toll on health, including its relatively high mortality. A new study by researchers at Delaware State University and published on the preprint server medRxiv* in September 2020 reports that the impact on mental health is disproportionately felt among undocumented immigrants studying in US colleges.

Fears in DACA Group

The top fears in this community include the possibility of getting COVID-19, losing family members, and not being able to earn enough to live due to unemployment and the global economic recession. Also called dreamers, these undocumented immigrants first entered the USA during their minority. Still, the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program allows them to continue their education and to work in the USA legally, without the fear of deportation.

Despite DACA protection, they are still very much a marginalized and poor community. The discussion on tightening the laws against illegal immigrants may lead to the deportation or detention of friends or family, heightening their anxieties. In addition, they are plagued by financial stress as well as academic challenges, aggravated by having to cope with a new social network while being separated from their families.

The pandemic has only worsened things because of its economic impact. Undocumented immigrants are not typically eligible to claim unemployment benefits or stimulus plans. Mental health issues are largely ignored. This has led some scientists to predict an unusually large rise in mental health problems in this community during the pandemic.


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