A group of Asian-American and Pacific Islander-serving organizations announced the creation of a mental health program for recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and their families Thursday, a month after the White House announced that it was ending the program.
Ten mental health service providers from the Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council (A3PCON) — a Los Angeles-based consortium of Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) groups — said they will provide free counseling, case management, and other mental health services through the DACA Mental Health Project.
The groups said they are providing the services in 12 languages: Bangla, Cantonese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Mandarin, Tagalog, Thai, Urdu, Vietnamese, and English.
Connie Chung Joe, co-chair of A3PCON, said it was important for the groups to say they would continue to provide services during a time of uncertainty that has seen some clients shy away from seeking help.
The scheduled termination of DACA, which shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation if they meet certain requirements, and anti-immigrant rhetoric have made much of the groups’ clientele wary of receiving services while increasing stress, Joe explained. She added that some clients might be hesitant about enrolling in government-funded programs because of the fear attached to sharing information.
Shikha Bhatnagar — executive director of the South Asian Network, one of the collaborating organizations — has also noticed clients dropping out of services, especially when it comes to the renewal of health insurance.
“They are too afraid to come in,” Bhatnagar said. “They feel their information might be in jeopardy, and they might be deported.”
Manjusha Kulkarni, A3PCON’s executive director, said that DACA has enabled thousands of young people to “come out of the shadows” and be integrated into society since its creation in 2012, though there has been a stigma in the AAPI community regarding coming forward and applying for protections.
Asians made up 10 percent of the population potentially eligible for DACA, according to a September 2014 report from the nonprofit Migration Policy Institute. But in a 2016 analysis, the institute found that application rates for youth born in Asia were “generally very low.”
According to 2016 federal immigration statistics, four of the 24 top countries of origin for DACA recipients are in Asia — South Korea, the Philippines, India, and Pakistan.
Joe said A3PCON’s DACA Mental Health Project is also designed to provide more flexible services and help those who might not have a diagnosed medical health condition but want to speak to a professional due to stress and anxiety.
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