Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 543–551 | Cite as

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

  • Rachel Siemons
  • Marissa Raymond-Flesh
  • Colette L. Auerswald
  • Claire D. Brindis
Original Paper


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.


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



This research was made possible by funding from the Blue Shield of California Foundation. Rachel Siemons’ time was also supported by the UCSF Dean’s Office Medical Student Research Program, the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program Thesis Grant, and the Schoeneman Grant. Dr. Marissa Raymond-Flesch’s time was supported by the Leadership Education in Adolescent Health Program from the Maternal and Child Health Department (T71MC00003) and the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies. Dr. Colette Auerswald’s time was supported by the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program. Dr. Claire Brindis’ time was supported by grants from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (U45MC 00002 and U45MC 00023). We are grateful to the following people for their valuable contributions to this project: Irene Bloemraad, PhD (UC Berkeley, Department of Sociology), Ken Jacobs, BA (UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education), as well as Laurel Lucia, MPP (UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education), Nadereh Pourat, PhD, Efrain Talamantes, MD, MBA, and Max Handler, MPH, MA (UCLA Center for Health Policy Research), our interns Arlette Lozano and Kathy Latthivongskorn, our advisory board members, and our community-based organization partners. Most of all we thank the participants who shared their personal experiences with us.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

None of the authors have conflicts of interest to disclose regarding this research. The study sponsor, Blue Shield Foundation of California, had one representative on the study’s advisory board, but was not directly involved in data collection or analysis, nor required review of this manuscript.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rachel Siemons
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Marissa Raymond-Flesh
    • 4
  • Colette L. Auerswald
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Claire D. Brindis
    • 4
  1. 1.University of California, BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.University of California, San FranciscoSan FranciscoUSA
  3. 3.Joint Medical ProgramUC Berkeley School of Public HealthBerkeleyUSA
  4. 4.Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, Division of Adolescent & Young Adult Medicine, Department of PediatricsUniversity of California, San FranciscoSan FranciscoUSA

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