Lessons Learned From Undocumented Latinx Immigrants: How to Build Resilience and Overcome Distress in the Face of Adversity

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Psychological Services




American Psychological Association

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Living under chronic uncertainty, fear, and isolation is the experience of many undocumented immigrants particularly under the recent sociopolitical climate. Yet, despite facing chronic adversity and an uncertain future, undocumented immigrants are highly resilient. This paper draws upon the clinical and research expertise of leading Latinx psychologists working with diverse undocumented communities across the United States. Qualitative data from seven focus groups with undocumented Latinxs and 15 in-depth interviews with key informants were used to complement clinical insights to identify and highlight strategies of undocumented Latinxs that promote their resilience. Overall, six primary strategies emerged including cognitive reframing, behavioral adaptability, acceptance, sociability, courage, and ancestral or cultural pride. Within each of these primary strategies, two-to-five additional facets emerged. We also identified the positive effects of the aforementioned strategies, including the fostering of meaning, purpose, and hope. Our findings are essential to address biases and stigmatization against undocumented immigrants, as well as to inform strength-based interventions and services, as well as culturally and contextually sensitive resources. Health services providers working with undocumented Latinxs can identify and build on strengths in their patients to demonstrate accurate cultural understanding and also to support resilience.