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Living in an Ongoing State of Fear: Will ICE Knock on my Door Next?

Young male leaning on fence
Image Credit: Jennifer Marquez

By Jim Sliney Jr

Immigration and Customs Agents were not as busy these past two weekends as the President warned they might be. You would think that was good news but no one is really celebrating. And why not? Because the fear and anxiety associated with the possibility of raids is just as real as a knock at the door.

"The threats of deportation and family separation are causing anxiety and fear within the vulnerable communities our agencies serve, endangering immigrant rights and safety,” said Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA on July 13th. “Most significant is the lasting psychological damage family separation inflicts upon children. Such cruel behavior will impact children for the rest of their lives."


Sister Markham’s point is echoed by mental health professionals. In 2017, Mary D. Moller PhD, associate professor, Pacific Lutheran University School of Nursing, and director of Psychiatric Services, Northwest Center for Integrated Health spoke before the Neuroscience Education Institute.

She explained how when the brain detects a threat it can naturally lead to fear and anxiety. If that fear and anxiety were to remain ongoing, like the looming threat of home raids by armed deportation officers over the next several months, it could impact a person greatly. Moller explained.

Chronic fear could lead to a reduction in overall health, including weakened immune system, sleep disturbances and eating disorders. Physical health suffers by the worsening of conditions that are present. For instance, headaches become migraine, muscle aches become fibromyalgia, or breathing difficulties become asthma. Furthermore, chronic fear can also impact:

  • emotional health (phobias, mood swings, inability to have loving feelings),
  • environmental health (fear of leaving the house, inability to find safe housing)
  • spiritual health (loss of trust in the church or in God, bitterness, confusion about God or religion)


Following this last weekend, comments by law makers and law enforcement did little to clarify what did and did not happen. The President expressed satisfaction with the success of the raids but advocates and activists found little evidence that raids had occurred in any of the target cities.

Currently, the scope of authority given to Immigration and Customs Enforcement is deliberately vague. Meanwhile, leaders use precisely that obscurity to create a state where crackdowns could happen anytime, anywhere.

The acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Ken Cuccinelli fed the uncertainty by keeping quiet about the raids this past Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union”. He would not comment on whether or not families would be separated by ICE agents. He said he would not discuss “operational details” saying it was for the safety of ICE agents. But he did point out that "There are 1 million people, including families, with removal orders."


“Catholic Charities has instituted an administrative action response protocol to prepare for and respond to emergency immigration situations at parishes, schools, and other Archdiocesan agencies” said Monsignor Kevin Sullivan of Catholic Charities of New York in a 7/12 statement. “When a person in their community experiences an immigration emergency, parish leaders, school principals, Catholic Charities agency directors, and other administrators in the Archdiocese can contact the Immigrant and Refugee Services Division and receive an immediate legal assessment and follow up legal and case management assistance should it be necessary,” said Monsignor Kevin Sullivan.