Immigration Enforcement and Birth Outcomes: Evidence from North Carolina

Over the past decade, the United States has seen a marked increase in Immigration and
Customs Enforcement (ICE) activities. We propose to analyze a potentially harmful, but
unintended, consequence of such activities: its effects on the health and well-being of immigrant
pregnant mothers and their children. We investigate the impacts of 287(g) programs and Secure
Communities, two ICE policies enacted over the past decade that had led to a spike in
detentions and deportations of undocumented immigrants. Data come from North Carolina, a
state that has seen rapid influx in the number of Hispanic migrants, but was at the national
forefront of tougher immigration enforcement policies. We hypothesize that immigrant mothers
living in communities where these policies were enacted, relative to immigrant mothers living in
unaffected communities, will negatively alter their pregnancy behaviors and will be more likely to
have infants with adverse birth outcomes. Our reasoning is that these policies may have
changed how mothers accessed medical care and likely also increased stress (physiological
stress can harm the fetus, or can lead to the adoption of adverse maternal coping mechanisms).
We will provide important, policy relevant information as to the linkages between ICE activities
and newborn health. Understanding such linkages is critical because adverse birth outcomes
carry substantial societal and individual-level costs, and conditions during pregnancy can
determine long-term well-being.