Documentation Status and Psychological Distress Among New York City Community College Students

Ahmed Alif, Bryan S. Nelson, Ana Stefancic, Riya Ahmed, Sumie Okazaki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: This research study examined how psychological distress, self-esteem, and academic performance differ across at-risk, temporary, and stable immigration statuses and whether fear of one's own deportation and that of family members is associated with psychological distress. Method: We surveyed 150 community college students (51% female; M age = 22.7, SD age = 2.4) with 3 types of immigration statuses: stable (citizen), temporary (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals [DACA] and visa), and at-risk of deportation (undocumented). One-way analyses of covariance examined whether fear of deportation, psychological distress, self-esteem, and academic performance varied across immigration statuses. Regression analyses examined the associations among fear of deportation for self and for family members, depression, and isolation and alienation. Results: Participants with at risk and temporary statuses reported higher fear of deportation for self, fear of family members being deported, psychological distress, and lower self-esteem than those with stable status. Academic performance did not differ across immigration statuses. Within the temporary status, DACA students experienced higher anxiety, isolation, and alienation than other temporary status students. Fear of deportation for self and family members predicted depression and isolation and alienation. Both regression analyses controlled for age, sex, region of origin, hours of work, hours of sleep, and socializing per day. Conclusion: The study provides new insights into how immigration status influences the psychological well-being of community college students and introduces a quantifiable framework to better understand the construct of fear of deportation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology
StateAccepted/In press - 2019


  • Academic performance
  • DACA
  • Immigration
  • Mental health
  • Undocumented

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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