Mason Students Discuss Public Health Implications of DACA

By Alexa Lewis

With its future in jeopardy due to legislative activity, the impacts of ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program are being widely discussed. Primarily, organizations and individuals emphasizes the economic impacts of immigration and deportation. However, the health consequences of these major life changes are rarely addressed. Mason students in the Social Determinants of Health course (GCH/SOCW 445) have been studying the public health implications associated with immigration and deportation and presented their findings in class this October. The students discussed studies that have shown a link between the fear of deportation and depression, anxiety, PTSD, hypertension, sleep disorders, and higher rates of heart disease and diabetes due to manifestations of toxic stress.

Students presenting in class2

One student explained, “It seems that there is a mistrust for medical providers and lack of education and dialogue surrounding the programs available to immigrants. Children born in the United States to undocumented parents or DACA recipients are eligible to get government assistance and access to healthcare benefits but often go without due to their parents’ fear of getting deported.”

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced DACA in June 2012. The program delays citizenship investigations on young adults who were brought to the country before 2007 and the age of 16. Though it does not provide lawful status, those with DACA eligibility also have access to a social security number, work authorization, and a driver’s license for a temporary period of two years. In some states, including Virginia, DACA-eligible university students also qualify for in-state tuition rates.

Local programs on college campuses seek to provide health education and opportunities to undocumented individuals. One such student organization—the Mason DREAMers—seeks to break down barriers these students are facing due to immigration status and provide resources such as mentorship events and scholarships.