DACA’s uncertain future boosts stress for recipients

Immigration advocates rally to urge Congress to pass permanent protections for DACA recipients and create a pathway to citizenship, near the U.S. Capitol June 15, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

After former President Donald Trump announced the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2017, its beneficiaries experienced significantly higher levels of distress and post-traumatic stress diagnoses than their non-DACA counterparts, according to a new study.

President Joe Biden has pledged to preserve DACA, but its future remains uncertain. As a result, stress is prevalent for those who benefit from the program, the researchers write.

For the study, published in Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice and Policy, the researchers examined the association between immigration legal status and distress from the announcement of DACA’s termination among individuals affected by the loss of the program.

Approximately 40% of the 233 individuals surveyed met the clinical cutoff for psychological distress.

DACA recipients had significantly higher levels of distress, even when compared to non-DACA immigrants with unauthorized immigration legal status, notes lead author Luz Garcini, assistant professor of psychological sciences and interim director of community and public health at the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University.

These mental health effects increase the risk of mental disorders, which is of concern given that these immigrants have limited access to health care, including mental health services, Garcini says.

The field of psychology needs to further study and address the impact of potentially traumatic events in this immigrant community, including the uncertainty surrounding DACA, Garcini and her coauthors write.

“Advocacy efforts to improve immigration policies need to be strengthened to combat the harmful mental and physical health impacts of the potential termination of DACA and those affected by it,” Garcini says.

Additional coauthors are from the University of Georgia, Yale University, Utah State University, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, and Rutgers University.

Source: Rice University