Immigration Enforcement and Birth Outcomes: Evidence from North Carolina

Project Description

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.

Project Goals

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.

Project Findings

Heightened Immigration Enforcement Impacts US Citizens’ Birth Outcomes: Evidence from Early ICE Interventions in North Carolina