In 2010, Arizona passed the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (SB 1070) which included provisions that barred the hiring of undocumented workers and required all immigrants to carry their registration documents. Most notably, it required law enforcement to assess immigration status at traffic stops or arrests if the officer reasonably believed the individual was an undocumented immigrant.
SB 1070 has had a negative impact on self-reported health and healthcare use among Latino adults and children. In a new study, researchers sought to determine the effect of SB 1070 on pregnant women–specifically, whether the policy influenced birth outcomes. External stress during pregnancy can substantially affect prenatal development, leading to health effects through the life course.
The study compared pregnancy outcomes of Latina immigrant mothers in Arizona to those of US-born Latina, Black, and White mothers in a comparable group of states. In assessing millions of births, the researchers found a decrease by 15 grams in the birth weight of babies born to Latina immigrants in the second half of 2010, when SB 1070 was signed, compared to births between 2007 and 2009. This decrease in birth weight was not identified in any of the comparison populations. A decrease by 15 grams in birth weight is comparable to the reduction seen following other major stressors like a natural disaster or the death of one of the mother’s parents.
In assessing millions of births, the researchers found a decrease by 15 grams in the birth weight of babies born to Latina immigrants in the second half of 2010, when SB 1070 was signed, compared to births between 2007 and 2009.
SB 1070 was signed by Arizona’s governor in April of 2010. The US Supreme Court struck down much of the law, and it was never fully implemented. Therefore, these results suggest even when restrictive immigration policies are not actually enforced, just the threat of systemic immigration change may negatively influence some birth outcomes.
Now, more than nine years after the initial passage of SB 1070, the United States has become a more hostile place for immigrants–particularly those seeking asylum at our southern border. Instead of offering refuge, our nation’s current immigration policies stand to further harm an already vulnerable population and their children.