Kicks Hurt Less: Discrimination predicts distress beyond trauma among undocumented Mexican immigrants

Luz M. Garcini, Michelle A. Chen, Ryan L. Brown, Thania Galvan, Levi Saucedo, Jodi A.Berger Cardoso, Christopher P. Fagundes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objective: This study aimed to assess for the prevalence of interpersonal discrimination among undocumented Mexican immigrants residing in high-risk neighborhoods near the California-Mexico border, identify relevant vulnerabilities, and determine its association with clinically significant psychological distress after controlling for sociodemographics, immigration characteristics, and history of trauma. Method: Respondent-driven sampling was used in this cross-sectional study to collect and analyze data from clinical interviews with 246 undocumented Mexican immigrants. The 53-item Brief Symptom Inventory was used as the primary outcome measure to assess for clinically significant psychological distress. For all analyses, inferential statistics accounted for design effects and sample weights to produce weighted estimates. Logistic regression was used in the multivariate analyses. Results: In all, 69% of the participants reported interpersonal discrimination due to being undocumented with significant differences observed across sex, educational attainment, and income. Among participants with a history of interpersonal discrimination due to their undocumented status, 52% met criteria for clinically significant psychological distress with significant differences observed across age groups, years living in the United States, and history of trauma. After controlling for relevant covariates, having experienced interpersonal discrimination due to being undocumented was the strongest significant predictor of clinically significant psychological distress, odds ratio = 5.47, 95% confidence interval [2.56, 11.7], p < .001, even beyond history of trauma. Conclusion: Overall, our findings emphasize the need for policies, advocacy, and the development and provision of contextually sensitive interventions to address the high prevalence of interpersonal discrimination and its negative health effects among undocumented Mexican immigrants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)692-701
Number of pages10
JournalPsychology of Violence
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Discrimination
  • Distress
  • Immigrant
  • Mexican
  • Undocumented

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Applied Psychology


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