Threat of ICE raids can cause PTSD, mental health expert says

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ByCraig Wall via WLS logo
Tuesday, July 16, 2019
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Chicago politicians and a licensed clinical social worker are concerned about the mental health impacts of the nationwide ICE raids over the weekend.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- President Donald Trump is calling the nationwide immigration arrests a success.

"Many were taken out on Sunday, you just didn't know about it," the president said.

The planned weekend raids targeted thousands of undocumented immigrants in Chicago and eight other cities. But if there were any raids or arrests this weekend in the Chicago area, activists tell ABC 7 they haven't heard about it, although a hotline set up to report activity was busy this weekend.

Now some Democrats wonder if President Trump wasn't more bluff and bluster than real action.

"There's almost no one here, it's a beautiful day, our summer camps should be almost full and overflowing with children and we should have triple the amount of kids that we had here today," said Alderman Ray Lopez, 15th Ward.

At Davis Square Park in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, the fallout from the fear about ICE raids is evident to Ald. Lopez. He said people are staying at home, even though the president's promised raids never materialized around Chicago on Sunday.

"I wonder if part of that strategy is to get people worked up so that they're constantly being traumatized over and over and over again. So that when he finally does act, six months from now, it'll be like 'the boy who cried wolf' syndrome where nobody's gonna believe that he's actually gonna do it and then he does it when everyone has their guard down," Lopez said.

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin said it isn't the first time the president has bluffed.

"It's not the first time he's told us he's going to get tough and then back off," Durbin said. "It may start this afternoon or tomorrow."

But the impact is still very real, according to one licensed clinical social worker who met with a recent high school graduate Monday afternoon.

"She was really anxious and upset over the weekend. She was talking about being around downtown, going back and forth from work to her parents' house and just having this presence on her mind just now knowing what this could look like," said Jessica Boland, director of behavioral health services at Esperanza Health Centers.

The fallout from repeatedly battling fear of having a family member arrested and deported can cause post-traumatic stress disorder, especially for children, she said.

"It can have a lot of lasting effects. It affects their sleep, and when kids aren't getting enough sleep, that affects their health, that affects their eating and their diet," Boland said.

She added that it's "heartbreaking, because there's only so much we can do."

"We can provide them with security and reassurances and support, but at the end of the day we can't predict the future," Boland said. "I can't promise somebody that something bad isn't going to happen."

In an open letter to the president published in the Washington Post, Mayor Lori Lightfoot also spoke of the fear the planned raids are causing for the estimated 180,000 undocumented immigrants living in Chicago.

Lightfoot urged Trump to "consider the lasting harm that the mere threat of these raids is doing to children all over this country."

To read Lightfoot's full op-ed, click here.