Public Release: 

Immigration raids are linked to low birth weights among Latina mothers

Some types of immigration policy and enforcement can negatively affect the well-being of Latino immigrants, but few studies have examined the repercussions to the health of Latino newborns

Oxford University Press USA

Some types of Immigration policy and enforcement can negatively affect the well-being of Latino immigrants, but few studies have examined the repercussions to the health of Latino newborns. New findings, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, found that there was an increase in the number of low birth weight babies born to US-born and immigrant Latina mothers after a search at a kosher slaughterhouse and meat packing plant in Iowa, in which federal authorities arrested nearly 400 immigrant workers without required identity papers.

The search, known as the Postville raid of 2008, is an extreme example of the spread and magnitude of racialized stress factors that Latinos face throughout the US. It was, at the time, the largest single- site federal immigration raid in US history. The impact of this event created conditions that lend insight into the lasting effects of stress, which are often difficult to measure.

This study examined ethnicity-specific patterns in birth outcomes before and after the Postville raid. Researchers analyzed Iowa birth certificate data to compare the risk of babies born at a low birth weight, by ethnicity and national origin. The analysis compared infants born in the 37 weeks following the raid to those born in the same 37 week period the previous year- 2007.

Findings indicated that infants born to immigrant and U.S.-born Latina mothers had a 24% greater risk of being born at a low birth weight when compared to the same period one year earlier. No such change was observed among infants born to non-Latina white mothers. Furthermore, analyses revealed a higher risk of moderate premature birth (32 to <37 weeks) after the raid among Latina mothers.

This study provides evidence in the repercussions of selective immigration policies and enforcement on American Latinos. The effects could put their health at significant risk, even for U.S.-born Latina mothers facing no risk of deportation themselves.

"In the wake of the Postville immigration raid, U.S.-born and immigrant Latino families' feared deportations and follow-up raids, and faced increased economic and social marginalization," said lead author Nicole Novak. "These stressors permeated the lives of both U.S.-born and foreign-born Latina mothers, potentially activating harmful physiological responses that could result in the poor birth outcomes we documented among their babies."

The paper "Change in birth outcomes among infants born to Latina mothers after a major immigration raid" is available at: 10.1093/ije/dyw346.


Direct correspondence to:

Nicole L. Novak
University of Michigan Population Studies Center
P.O. Box 1248
426 Thompson St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1248

To request a copy of the study, please contact:

Daniel Luzer

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