Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Degree Level



School of Social Work


LaShawnda Fields

Committee Member

Mark Plassmeyer

Second Committee Member

Ananda Rosa


DACA recipients;Dreamers;immigrants;immigration policy;legal status;Mental health


Millions of immigrant children without legal status grow up in the U.S. and aspire to live and thrive in American society. However, without legal status, they face challenges in integrating into society. Implemented in 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was created to help immigrant youth integrate into society by providing them with work permits, facilitating educational opportunities, and protection from deportation. However, not all immigrant children qualify for DACA, and the recent legal challenges to DACA prohibit new applicants and put roughly 600,000 recipients in legal limbo. The research questions this study poses are 1.) How do the mental health experiences of DACA recipients differ from non-DACA recipients? 2.) How do DACA’s current legal challenges impact DACA recipients? This study used eight semi-structured qualitative interviews to answer the research questions from four DACA recipients and four non-DACA recipients. The study included questions surrounding participants’ ability to integrate into society, DACA’s legal status, their personal legal status, and the impact these experiences have had on their mental health. The findings of this study indicate that both DACA and non-DACA recipients face challenges in integration and fear of deportation, have found coping mechanisms, help their families financially, and that DACA recipients have emotional responses while reflecting on DACA. Lastly, the study provides implications for social work practice, policy, and research. Keywords: DACA recipients, Dreamers, legal status, mental health, immigrants

Included in

Social Work Commons