Manoeuvering through the Multilayered Jurisdictional Policy Patchwork: DACA Recipients' Navigational Capital in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Region

Ethn Racial Stud. 2023;46(1):141-165. doi: 10.1080/01419870.2022.2062251. Epub 2022 Apr 25.


During its almost-decade of existence, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has been a focal point of immigration policy debate. Liminally legal DACA recipients have endured a rollercoaster of lawsuits and court decisions, yet are simultaneously incorporating into local communities characterized by distinctive socio-legal contexts. Drawing from a longitudinal qualitative study of 30 DACA recipients in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan region, we argue that DACA recipients draw from their legal-spatial consciousness and local knowledge to forge navigational capital that allows them to adeptly maneuver between different jurisdictions. Over time, they deploy this navigational capital to strategically access distinct yet interconnected educational, health care, housing, and employment sectors and expand their spatial mobility, underscoring their capacity for adaptation and resilience. As forms of collective knowledge, their navigational capital reverberates through their social networks as they broker on-the-ground forms of inclusion for themselves and their families and communities within these socio-legal contexts.

Keywords: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA); contexts of reception; immigrant youth; immigration policy; liminal legality; navigational capital.