Social Workers and the Protection of Immigrant and Refugee Rights

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Problem Statement

According to Gensler (2017), DACA is the acronym for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was implemented by the Obama administration in 2012. Undocumented children are brought to the United States by their parents at a young age, have lived in the United States most of their lives, and have attended elementary, middle and high school in the United States; as a result, undocumented children feel American at heart (Educators for Fair Consideration, 2012). In addition, “DACA is an American immigration policy that allows qualified undocumented youth access to relief from deportation, renewable work permits and temporary social security numbers” (Rodriguez, 2016). However, Donald Trump’s plan is for the DACA program to slowly come to an end. If the program is terminated it can jeopardize the lives of undocumented students. Although, their will not be immediate change in their status, they can be vulnerable if law is passed.

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Undocumented youth now account for one-fourth of the nation’s 75 million children; by 2050 they are projected to make up one-third of more than 100 million US children (Tienda & Haskin, 2011). The undocumented youth/children who are placed in this position reflects their parents’ idea. As these children mature into adults, they adopt American customs and beliefs.

For that reason, it is imperative that social workers understand the endless challenges undocumented children face throughout their life (Rodriguez, 2016). Social workers should advocate for undocumented citizens to have better opportunities and resources. Social workers should also enhance their quality of life by helping undocumented citizens gain the tools they need to survive in America.

Literature Review

DACA is a great organization that provides educational benefits, economic opportunities and temporary relief for undocumented college students, but does not provide a long term solution and do not offer a pathway to legal citizenship (Rodriguez, 2016). However, DACA is only temporary solution for undocumented citizens. Undocumented college students continue to face a grey area due to their temporary legal status and unknown future in the US (Enriquez, Martha, Ro, 2018). Although programs DACA provide educational benefits, economic opportunities and temporary relief for undocumented college students, it does not provide a pathway for legalization or further benefit beyond college.

Research on immigrant illegality highlights how the consequences of documentation status are dependent on the broader policy context. Laws draw distinctions between sub-groups of undocumented immigrants who may be seen as more or less deserving of rights and opportunities (Enriquez et al., 2018). Each study reviewed gives an illusion of emotional situations undocumented citizens face daily. Almost every immigrant studied, faced signs of anxiety and stress in regards to their legal status. The mere state of being undocumented is viewed as a general stressor, without considering actual levels of stress or identifying dimensions of documentation status that contribute to overall stress levels (Enriquez et al., 2018). Furthermore, mental illness is overlooked amongst this population. Unfortunately, undocumented citizens are faced with stress before DACA, during DACA, and after DACA.


Researchers already indicated that undocumented college students face identity stressors, barriers, fears, coping strategies, strengths, college life, and pre and post migration experience Rodriguez, 2016). There are risk factors to being an undocumented student such as mental and physical health issues. According to Deconstructing Immigrant Illegality (2018), “Most undocumented immigrants’ experience chronic stress, yet key questions about pathways to health remain” (Enriquez et al., 2018). Stress occurs when ones’ spot is undetermined or when they’re done with college and opportunities are very limited.

The results from each research equally raised a concern regarding the health and confidence of undocumented college students and their families. In addition, stress for this population is seen is many forms. One common stressor is their legal status. Moreover, undocumented immigrants are less likely to be open about their immigration status and they experience a great amount of poor health (Enriquez et al., 2018). Another common stressor found amongst undocumented citizens were their families and finances (Rodriguez, 2016). Between legal status, family, and finances these are the most common stressor found amongst undocumented citizens.


Many people who have a slight mental illness are not aware that they have one, and unfortunately, this illness will continue until treated. Social workers advocate for those people whose voice may not be heard. In addition, social work can contribute to helping one who suffers with a mental illness by providing individual or group therapy. Even those who do not specialize are able to contact resources to help the individual with rehabilitation, crisis intervention and or other opportunities. It is imperative that social workers understand the endless challenges undocumented children face throughout their life (Rodriguez, 2016). Social workers should be aware and conscious as well as contributing to helping undocumented citizens who suffer from such circumstances.

Affected Your Views:

Each literature review gives insight to the extent of the assistance DACA offers immigrant citizens, but also educates its readers on stressors and anxiety. In this country, we are told that education is the gateway to success but after reading researching, it is understood that simply going to school is not enough. From the outside looking in, one would think that immigrants are guaranteed a better life once they are afforded a college education but that is not necessarily true. I will say, however, that struggling after school is not unique to immigrants. In fact, most people experience financial hardship during school and job insecurity after graduating but the effects of these struggles can have a more significant impact when your legal status in a country is at stake once you graduate. In a study conducted by Kosnac (2014) a recipient stated, ““I don’t want crumbs”,” I want the whole cake.”” This individual reflected how she feels in regards to DACA. Although, DACA contributes to some success, undocumented citizens are still excluded from living the entire American Dream.

Research Question and Hypothesis

From previous research founded in the literature review sections of this paper, it was determined that DACA individuals and their families suffer from anxiety. Due to Donald’s Trump position regarding DACA, undocumented immigrants experience a great amount of poor health. In addition, this may be the leading cause of issues in DACA individuals. Therefore, I expect to uncover the amount of anxiety DACA recipients face when dealing within Congress’ indecisive decisions in regards to the program. As the possibility of DACA’s termination is uncertain, anxiety amongst the dreamers will increase. The independent variable is the unreliability of the DACA program. The dependent variable is anxiety amongst dreamers.


I will be using The Hamilton Anxiety Rating Sale (HARS) to measure the severity of anxiety symptoms. The independent variable is my study is the termination of DACA. The dependent variable is anxiety amongst dreamers. The HARS was first developed in 1959 by Max R Hamilton (Vaccarino, Evans & Kalali, 2008). However, over the decade the HARS has been modified from a five-point scale to a 14-point scale to give better indications of anxiety. Each point on the newest model is defined by a series of symptoms, and measures both psychic anxiety (mental agitation and psychological distress) and somatic anxiety (physical complaints related to anxiety) (Vaccarino et al., 2008). HARS can be used with certain population, but varies in age. HARS is intended to work with adults, adolescents, and children.

The stated purpose of the instrument is similar to the purpose of my study which is, “As the possibility of DACA’s termination becomes more likely, anxiety amongst the dreamers will increase”. This instrument is relevant to my research because this scale measures the severity of anxiety symptoms. The instrument can be used ethically because it does not discriminate on its population and it measures what it is suppose to measure within those populations (Vaccarino et al., 2008). According to The Hamilton Anxiety Scale (1988), “Among 97 panic disorder and 101 depressed patients, the reliability and the concurrent validity of HARS and its subscales proved to be sufficient (Maier, Buller, Philipp, & Heuser). Also, HARS can also be translated into common languages. I will be using the Ordinal Scale to receive results in regards to anxiety amongst undocumented students. I also conclude that it would take approximately 15 minutes for one to complete the assessment.

Ethical issues

Some ethical issues would be to obtain consent and data collection. I find that obtaining a consent form and collecting accurate data is ethical because all of these issues are important when conducting a study. Without these things in the study, the study would be considered invalid. Although there are many individuals that want their voices to be heard on the topic of DACA, there are also others that do not like to be in the spot light when it comes to personal issues like this. Therefore, I am assuming that it would be hard to obtain consent from individuals who are undocumented. Data collection could also be an ethical issue because although individuals gave consent, they are unware of how in depth the questionnaire may be, leading to falsify information. Another ethical issue that can occur is properly discussing research clearly so that nobody takes offense. It is important to be mindful of all individuals who have taken the questionnaire study. 

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Social Workers and the Protection of Immigrant and Refugee Rights. (2021, Oct 13). Retrieved November 29, 2022 , from

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