Race and Social Problems

, 3:170 | Cite as

“My Life was Filled with Constant Anxiety”: Anti-Immigrant Discrimination, Undocumented Status, and Their Mental Health Implications for Brazilian Immigrants

  • Tiffany D. Joseph


Immigration reform and the various costs associated with undocumented immigration have been in national headlines in the past few years. The growth of Latinos as the US’ largest ethno-racial minority has sparked debates about the “browning” of the United States and led to an increase in anti-immigrant discrimination. While some researchers have documented the effects of racial discrimination on the mental health of ethno-racial minorities in the United States, less has explored how anti-immigrant discrimination and undocumented status influence the mental and psychological well-being of Latino immigrants, more specifically Brazilian immigrants, in the United States. Relying on data from in-depth interviews conducted with 49 Brazilian return migrants who immigrated to the United States and subsequently returned to Brazil, this paper will examine how their experiences living as racialized and primarily undocumented immigrants in the United States influenced their mental health. Specifically, I demonstrate that respondents experienced ethno-racial and anti-immigrant discrimination and endured various challenges that had negative implications for their mental health. This paper will also discuss additional factors that researchers should take into account when examining immigrants’ mental health and the challenges immigrants encounter in a racialized society with increasing anti-immigrant sentiment.


Immigration Brazilian immigrants Mental health Discrimination Racism 



The author acknowledges James Jackson, Alford Young, Jr., Sarah Burgard, James House, the National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant Program, Institute of International Education Fulbright Student Grant Program, Ford Foundation Diversity Predoctoral Fellowship Program, Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and the Social Science Research Council. She also to thank the reviewers for their comments on earlier versions of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Scholar, Harvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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