All immigrants, regardless of their legal status, should have access to relevant therapeutic spaces and thrive as equal members of the community.
Living in the US without status is hard on the heart. The word that most undocumented immigrants use to describe their daily life is "fear." Immigration status defines who one can talk to, the places where one can go, and whether or not we can enjoy what most of us take for granted: Living with our loved ones. In short, illegality determines much of the emotional world of an immigrant.
it is in this context that having access to safe, culturally, and structurally relevant therapeutic spaces becomes crucial to cope with the undocumented life. Such therapeutic spaces must extend beyond "the Clinic" and follow the beat of the Community.
After years of listening to the undocumented migrant community we have learned that advocacy, done in a mutually empowering manner, is a crucial element in any therapeutic endeavor. We have also learned that we are all involved in the process regardless of our immigration status. One cannot seek healing for the oppressed without acknowledging that we are all neighbors and responsible for each other's well-being and the good of the communities we call home. This includes to work together for the betterment of our neighbor's material as well as spiritual conditions. Thus, we place our mental health expertise in partnership with the community to respond to needs and empower our collective resources in innovative ways.
Puentes mobilizes mental health resources to help undocumented migrants and their families cope and flourish despite our broken immigration system. We create innovating therapeutic spaces to promote social healing, the recovery of social agency, and engage community members to work towards immigration justice in the US.
IMMIGRATION as a social determinant of MENTAL HEALTH
We recognize that immigration status is a social determinant of health generally, and of mental health particularly.
Current immigration policies attack the very conditions families need to thrive: Predictability, Stability, and Access to Nurturing Environments. ICE raids, collaboration between immigration officials and local police, and for-profit detention centers, all contribute to the separation of families. Thus, children are left without their caregivers in an instant; parents are separated from their children indefinitely; people lose their jobs and the emotional connections they had to their neighborhoods.
These government actions leave families in dire financial need, making housing, education, and recreation unstable for children with great consequences for their mental health. Children of undocumented parents suffer from higher rates of anxiety, depression, and PTSD than their counterparts.
The situation of families affected by immigration policies in the U.S. is in many cases, just another chapter in a series of traumatic experiences that follow them through their home country, the border, and later their host country.
Despite all the suffering that these neighbors carry on their shoulders daily, as they try to move on with their lives, there are little to no mental health services available for the undocumented.
There are over 230,000 undocumented immigrants living in Washington State, and 11.3 million calculated in the US. Some of these neighbors are new to the country, while others have lived here for decades. Most of them are part of mixed-status families; their spouses or children at US citizens. Furthermore, they are a lively part of our communities across the U.S. Investing in the mental health of undocumented migrants is to invest in the health of neighborhoods across the country.
What we do
Accessible Counseling: We provide low-cost, accesible counseling services for new immigrants without access to medicaid at our clinic in Burien and in the greater Seattle area through our partner organizations.
- Forensic Assessments for Immigration Proceedings: We provide expert psychosocial assessments for individuals applying to regularize their status.
- Talleres: We create workshops to support the unique needs of new immigrants and mixed-status families
- Creation of Educational Resources: We write educational curriculum to train emerging Promotores de Salud Mental (Community [Mental] Health Workers).
- Consulting and Training of Mental Health professionals.
- Community Organizing & Community Development: We work with other grassroots organizations to mobilize new leaders in neighborhoods in the Greater Seattle area around issues affecting the Latino new immigrant community.
how we do it
- We adopt an Asset-based Community Development lens to mental health, identifying resources in the community that we can mobilize at the local level to increase both health equity and access to justice.
- We don't "elevate" the voices of people on the margins; we center those voices and take them seriously in the design and implementation of our interventions.
- We don't attract the community to the clinic. On the contrary, we look at "The Clinic" with critical eyes from the standpoint of the community and take the Latino tradition as a serious dialogue partner in the fostering of better mental health.
- We are Latino-immigrant led and plan to continue to be so for decades to come.