Abstract: (WITHDRAWN) Hanging on a "Piece of String:" Intersectional Challenges amidst Shifting Daca Policies (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

All live presentations are in Eastern time zone.

399P (WITHDRAWN) Hanging on a "Piece of String:" Intersectional Challenges amidst Shifting Daca Policies

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Daysi Diaz-Strong, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL
Background & Purpose: The uncertainty permeating the lives of undocumented immigrants has escalated with Trump’s presidency and resulted in shifts to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA, an Obama-era executive action, provides relief from deportation and renewable work permits to eligible undocumented immigrants arriving in childhood. The Trump administration rescinded DACA on September 5, 2017; however, federal court injunctions have kept DACA in limbo. A Supreme Court decision is expected by June, 2020. At present, DACA renewals continue, but first-time applications are not allowed. Amidst shifting policies, how are undocumented young adults experiencing the potential end of DACA? This paper addresses this question through data from a study focused on undocumented Mexican and Central Americans who immigrated in adolescence. The timing of data collection aligned with Trump’s election and first 16 months in office and captured how they experienced DACA’s heightened uncertainty.

Methods: Employing the qualitative method of narrative inquiry, this paper draws on semi-structured interviews with 40 Mexican and Central American undocumented young adults (ages 18 to 35) who immigrated in adolescence (ages 13 to 17). I focus on a subsample of 19 participants who arrived prior to the age of 16—the cutoff for DACA eligibility. The participant’s mean age-at-arrival was 14 and 28 was the mean age-at-the interview. Participants consisted of 12 males and 7 females. Interview data were thematically analyzed in ATLAS.ti for patterns in their experiences and responses to DACA changes. Nine of the participants were interviewed once and 10 twice. First interviews were conducted between September 2016 and June 2017 and second interviews between October 2017 and May 2018. Participants were recruited via personal, professional, and organizational networks.

Results: Heightened uncertainty created challenges and distress across participants. Nonetheless, educational attainment and parental status intersected to shape their experiences. Participants who due to limited resources and educational opportunities never accessed DACA struggled with the cumulative impact of stifled dreams and lamented the door closing to new applicants. DACA beneficiaries who were shut out of postsecondary education feared losing the economic ground gained—including access to higher-wage employment, home ownership, and tax benefits—and dreaded returning to a life without DACA. DACA recipients who graduated college also feared losing the economic mobility accessed but expressed confidence in their ability to locate opportunities and adapt. Across all levels of educational attainment, parents were the most distressed as they worried about their children’s future and well-being if DACA ended.

Conclusion & Implications: The benefits of DACA were unequally accessed and shaped how policy shifts were experienced and navigated. Participants’ experiences across multiple forms of marginalization illustrate that immigration policies result in multiple lived realities. Much of the knowledge and advocacy surrounding DACA, however, has focused on college-going youth. Solutions based solely on college educated DACA recipients will end up falling short of addressing the needs of young people shut out of educational opportunities or who are parents. Ultimately, advocacy and practice must consider how intersecting systems of oppression create layered impacts.