A team of researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) reported that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program appears to have reduced depression among eligible undocumented immigrants, often referred to as the “Dreamers.” These findings come on the heels of ongoing debates around the future under the Trump Administration of immigration policies, including the DACA program, which provides renewable, temporary work permits to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children. Thus far, over 750,000 individuals have been enrolled.
“It is well known that economic circumstances affect mental health,” said lead researcher Atheendar Venkataramani, of MGH. “The DACA program increased access to the U.S. labor market for these individuals and raised hopes for a better economic future. The large mental health benefits we found likely reflect these positive changes.”
The current study, published in the latest issue of The Lancet Public Health, examined data submitted by more than 14,000 non-citizen Hispanic adults through the U.S. National Health Interview Survey. The researchers used respondents’ age, timing of immigration and other criteria to identify potentially DACA-eligible persons. They then compared changes in respondents’ overall self-reported health and depression symptoms before and after the implementation of DACA between those who might be eligible—the survey did not ask about immigration status—and those definitely not eligible for DACA.
Overall, the study found that DACA-eligible persons were 50 percent less likely to report symptoms consistent with major depression at the time they completed the survey.