Support in the Shadows: DACA Recipients' Reported Social Supports in the Context of Higher Education



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This study examined the role that social supports played in helping DACAmented individuals to gain access to higher education and to continue with their studies successfully. Data from 22 online survey responses indicated that the type and frequency of social supports received varied based on the context considered. Across all contexts, the most frequent social support received was emotional support as opposed to instrumental support, which was the least frequent. However, when the higher education context was considered in isolation, instrumental support was the least present (n = 11) and appraisal support was the most present (n = 18). Outside the higher education context, informational support was the least present (n = 16) and emotional support was the most present (n = 24). Survey participants also indicated that they were most satisfied with the appraisal support received within their higher education contexts and the least satisfied with the instrumental support provided to them. Whereas outside their higher education contexts, survey participants indicated that they were most satisfied with the emotional support and least satisfied with the appraisal support provided to them. Nine semi-structured interviews expanded on DACAmented individuals’ experiences with these social supports and provided suggestions for how higher education institutions could better support the undocumented community. Thematic analysis was used to analyze the qualitative data and resulted in the emergence of six themes: (a) Familial support and costs to psychological well-being; (b) Barriers to financial aid impede access to higher education and beyond; (c) Necessity for greater knowledge of the undocumented community (d) Importance of advocates and allies among faculty, staff, and peers; and (e) Resiliency—a desire to grow and learn as individuals.



Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), social support, student needs, undocumented immigrants, resiliency, higher education, access to higher education, recommendations for faculty/staff, minority students