Immigration Status and Psychological Well-being: The Mixed Effects of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program Among Latino Immigrants in California, 2007–2016

Caitlin Patler , University of California, Davis
Erin R. Hamilton, University of California, Davis
Robin Savinar, University of California, Davis

Young, undocumented people experience poorer mental health outcomes than their documented counterparts. We examine the impact the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on the psychological wellbeing of Latino immigrant young adults in California. First, we estimate DACA’s impacts on psychological distress among Latino-origin immigrants using multiple waves of representative statewide data collected via the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS). Our results show that levels of distress for DACA-eligible young adults dropped significantly in the short-term period after DACA’s implementation (2012-2014), but reverted back to the pre-DACA mean by 2015. To help explain these findings, we draw on original survey and interview data from DACA recipients and non-recipients in California. Our findings reveal that patterns of distress (immediate decreases that disappear over time), are linked both to the program’s characteristics as well as to the national political climate. Our study has implications for other legal transitions among vulnerable groups.

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 Presented in Session 224. Unauthorized and Irregular Migration