Trauma symptomatology among undocumented immigrants in the context of U visa petitions

Amy B Berman, Tennessee State University


The national crisis related to undocumented individuals across the United States has increased the relevance of immigration issues in the field of psychology (Cervantes, Mejia, & Guerrero Mena, 2010; American Psychological Association, 2012). Despite increasing numbers of immigrants of undocumented status, the psychological implications of being undocumented has been largely ignored in the psychological research literature (Arbona et al., 2010). Undocumented immigrants may be at significantly higher risk of victimization than their U.S.-born or legal immigrant counterparts (Bucher, Manasse, & Tarasawa, 2010). Further, undocumented victims of interpersonal violence are particularly vulnerable within the context of the criminal justice and immigration systems (McCormick, 2011) and often reluctant to report crime due to fear of deportation (Bucher et al., 2010; Fussell, 2011; McCormick, 2011). As the research has focused on immigrants with documented status (Bucher et al., 2010) and intimate partner violence (Nava et al., 2014; Raj A, 2003), there is a gap in the research addressing other categories of interpersonal violence and undocumented status (American Psychological Association, 2012). The U Nonimmigrant Status Certification (U visa) is a humanitarian legal remedy for undocumented immigrants who are victims of crime (Abrams, 2012; Hanson, 2010; Hipolito, 2010). As the U visa petition requires submission of evidence to establish physical or mental abuse (Abrams, 2012), a psychological evaluation can be crucial to document psychological consequences of victimization (National Immigrant Justice Center, 2012). However, research on the psychological functioning of undocumented immigrants, especially in the context of U visa petitions and across varying categories of interpersonal violence (American Psychological Association, 2012), is scant. This study compared the trauma symptomatology of a sample of undocumented victims of varying categories of interpersonal violence in the context of their U visa petition. The purpose of this study was to identify the extent to which varying types of victimization were related to trauma symptomatology in the context of application for legal status. This study aims to add to the body of literature relevant to the psychological functioning of undocumented victims of crime, with clinical implications for the assessment of trauma in the context of psychological evaluation for U visa petitions.

Subject Area

Law|Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Amy B Berman, "Trauma symptomatology among undocumented immigrants in the context of U visa petitions" (2016). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI3726278.