Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Ester R. Shapiro

Second Advisor

Lizabeth Roemer

Third Advisor

Miren Uriarte


This research employed ecological and participatory perspectives on mental health principles to examine the impact of increased Immigration and Customs Enforcement on the lived experiences of Latino immigrants in Chelsea, Massachusetts, the personal and community responses to increased enforcement, and the role of community-based resources in protecting personal and family wellness. Participants were fifteen adults who self-identified as Latino immigrants concerned about impacts of increased ICE enforcement, born in Central America, Colombia, and Puerto Rico. Although the two Puerto Rican participants are not immigrants by definition, both identified as immigrants and illustrate the impact of enforcement on a wider range of residents in mixed status families and communities. The interviews were analyzed using thematic analysis, complemented by participatory methods. Findings suggest that experiences associated with immigration status or identities intersected with multiple interconnected social dimensions such as gender, sexual orientation, race, age at immigration, documentation status, and socio-economic status. Ballou's (2002) feminist ecological model and Prilleltensky's (2008) psychopolitical model of wellness were employed to organize the themes in participant narratives as they described experienced barriers and reclaimed power at intersections of immigration concerns and other systemic contexts. Participants identified their journeys towards reclaiming power/agency in their lives as movement towards wellness, or towards realizing family goals. . Mental health needs, symptoms, or emotional expressions were understood in relationship to this construct of power - so that being able or unable exercise agency in their environments was critical in generating what are sometimes considered private or personal emotional/psychological states. The ecological contexts impacting individual experience were organized as: (1) Individual, (2) Family, (3) City of Chelsea, (4) United States/Federal Immigration Policy, and (5) Global/Country of Origin. Within each ecological level participants identified challenges/oppressive forces as well as strengths/resources. These findings suggest that immigrant mental health services need to consider contextual resources for empowerment in promoting personal, family and community wellness. Results will be shared with community partners to inform mental health and Social Service components of a community-based organization's responses to immigration enforcement , and their ongoing work promoting personal and community wellness.


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