Publication Date

Summer 2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Justice Studies


Bryce Westlake

Subject Areas

Social work, Social psychology, Social structure


Threats to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy have created increased mental health distress for recipients and their families. This is because they live in constant fear of deportation and potential separation from their family. For those attending university, these fears are compounded by the stress and anxiety common among higher education students. Therefore, it is important to investigate how DACA university students manage mental health and well-being, the factors that contribute to them seeking or not seeking assistance, and the services that are available and used by students. To examine this, eight semi-structured interviews were conducted with DACA undergraduate and graduate students at San José State University (SJSU). Five themes emerged. (1) the role of culture in knowledge, perception, and practice of mental health; (2) the DACA student self-identity crisis; (3) how policy instability manifests into toxic uncertainty; (4) the impact of proposed DACA program rescinding on mental health and well-being; and (5) the exit plan. The themes were interpreted with the aim to increase awareness of obstacles DACA students face, to improve services and support. These improvements are discussed in regard to SJSU specifically, but with implications for community organizations and other higher education institutions.

Available for download on Sunday, April 11, 2027