Coming of Age on the Margins: Mental Health and Wellbeing Among Latino Immigrant Young Adults Eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

J Immigr Minor Health. 2017 Jun;19(3):543-551. doi: 10.1007/s10903-016-0354-x.


Undocumented immigrant young adults growing up in the United States face significant challenges. For those qualified, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program's protections may alleviate stressors, with implications for their mental health and wellbeing (MHWB). We conducted nine focus groups with 61 DACA-eligible Latinos (ages 18-31) in California to investigate their health needs. Participants reported MHWB as their greatest health concern and viewed DACA as beneficial through increasing access to opportunities and promoting belonging and peer support. Participants found that DACA also introduced unanticipated challenges, including greater adult responsibilities and a new precarious identity. Thus, immigration policies such as DACA may influence undocumented young adults' MHWB in expected and unexpected ways. Research into the impacts of policy changes on young immigrants' MHWB can guide stakeholders to better address this population's health needs. MHWB implications include the need to reduce fear of deportation and increase access to services.

Keywords: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA); Immigrants; Mental health; Qualitative research; Undocumented; Well-being Latino; Young adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • California
  • Family Relations / psychology
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Hispanic Americans / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health / ethnology*
  • Policy
  • Resilience, Psychological
  • Self Concept
  • Social Support
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Undocumented Immigrants / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Undocumented Immigrants / psychology*
  • United States
  • Young Adult