The fight itself can be a coping mechanism in the face of uncertainty and discrimination, says Germán Cadenas, PhD, a counseling psychologist at Lehigh University whose work focuses on the psychology of undocumented immigrants. Cadenas and his colleagues have found that undocumented immigrants experience race-based discrimination and have higher psychological distress than those with citizenship or legal protections such as lawful permanent residence (Journal of Latinx Psychology, In Press).
Critical consciousness—the ability to analyze and challenge systems of privilege and oppression—is a coping mechanism that protects against some of this distress, the researchers found. Critical consciousness is also associated with a greater intent to persist through college for DACA recipients, Cadenas has found (Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 2018). “Getting involved in activism gives people an outlet to deal with all of these awful things, like family separations, police brutality, and incarceration,” he says.
“Getting involved in activism gives people an outlet to deal with all of these awful things, like family separations, police brutality, and incarceration."
Dr. Germán Cadenas