Brief Overview: Immigration in the U.S.
The United States has more immigrants than any other country in the world. The U.S. foreign-born population reached a record 44.8 million in 2018 and it continues to rise annually. Most immigrants, approximately, 77% are in the country legally, while it is estimated that almost a quarter are undocumented, according to new Pew Research Center estimates based on census data adjusted for undercount. In 2017, 45% were naturalized U.S. citizens. Some 27% of immigrants were permanent residents and 5% were temporary residents in 2017. Another 23% of all immigrants were unauthorized immigrants. From 1990 to 2007, the unauthorized immigrant population more than tripled in size – from 3.5 million to a record high of 12.2 million in 2007. By 2017, that number had declined by 1.7 million, or 14%. There were 10.5 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. in 2017, accounting for 3.2% of the nation’s population (Pew Research Center, 2020).
What is a Psychological Immigration Evaluation?
Immigration psychological evaluations, also known as immigration mental health assessments, are evaluations conducted by a licensed mental health professional for an immigrant petitioning the government for various petitions, such as, Asylum, Cancellation of Removal, Extreme & Exceptional Hardship (I-601 Waiver), T Visa, U Visa, and VAWA (Violence Against Women Act). The purpose of an immigration psychological evaluation is to provide an additional layer of support and testimony to the individual’s immigration case. Immigrants are more likely to experience mental health symptoms due to the trauma and/or persecution that they often experience before arrival, and the stress of immigrating (Walter et al., 2001). In addition, as immigration policies have become more restricted in the United States, larger numbers of immigrants are facing deportation, proceedings, and/or detention.
This has increased the demand for mental health professionals who are expertly trained in conducting immigration psychological evaluations to provide aid to support individuals in need. Psychological immigration evaluations support and aid individuals in their case. For example, by providing psychological evidence of trauma in asylum seekers or in victims of human trafficking, or by assessing competency to participate in immigration proceedings, or risk for violence (Shibley et al., 2022).
Why is a Psychological Immigration Evaluation Important?
A psychological immigration evaluation provides a comprehensive assessment which is used by the client and attorney to support immigration proceedings. When this report is used in an immigration proceeding, they can vastly improve the chances of approval. Furthermore, immigration psychological evaluations are vital in cases where individuals don't necessarily have proof of their harm - no police report of an assault or paper trail of their persecution and/or trauma; it helps immigration officials to understand why a person may be hesitant to respond to questions about their trauma or why that trauma in turn means they might not be able to recall specific details. This assessment also improves their chances at a life in the United States of America. In a 2008 study from the Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, one of the most cited, found asylum cases with evaluations were 89% successful. By contrast, the national average without a immigration evaluation was 37.5% (Ferdowsian et al., 2019).
Budiman, A. (2020, August 20). Key findings about U.S. immigrants. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2020/08/20/key-findings-about-u-s-immigrants/
Ferdowsian H, McKenzie K, Zeidan A. Asylum Medicine: Standard and Best Practices. Health Hum Rights. 2019 Jun;21(1):215-225. PMID: 31239628; PMCID: PMC6586957.
Shibley, M. G., Holt, M. G., & Falicov, C. J. (2022). Conducting immigration evaluations: A practical guide for mental health professionals. Routledge.
Walther, L., Rayes, D., Amann, J., Flick, U., Ta, T. M. T., Hahn, E., & Bajbouj, M. (2021, November 4). Mental Health and Integration: A qualitative study on the struggles of recently arrived refugees in Germany. Frontiers in public health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8599120
Dr. Matthew Diner, PhD, LCSW is a bilingual (English/Spanish) licensed clinical social worker. Dr. Diner is a trained psychotherapist and expert evaluator in conducting psychological evaluations for immigration hardships cases. Dr. Diner has extensive training and experience in working with various mental health issues and can diagnose anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other conditions using supportive evidence for an immigration petition.