"I need this chance to . . . help my family": A qualitative analysis of the aspirations of DACA applicants

Yvonne M. Luna, T. Mark Montoya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


This study explores the aspirations of undocumented youth seeking to defer deportation from the United States and obtain temporary employment authorization through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The data are twenty-three letters submitted from 2013-2015 to a nonprofit foundation in the US Southwest that provides financial assistance to pay DACA application fees. Conducted within a narrative framework, analysis of emergent themes reveals a story of hope and family that counters the dominant political story of fear and threat to public safety. Specifically, from the DACA applicant's standpoint, family is their most valuable form of social capital and by providing the means for employment and the education needed to launch a sustainable career, DACA status provides the leverage required to maximize family capital. Our analysis reveals a disturbing disjuncture between their testimonios and the realities of a policy intended to serve as a safety net. The current political climate makes aspirations like theirs increasingly difficult to achieve and may actually exacerbate legal and social liminality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number265
JournalSocial Sciences
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019


  • DACA
  • Dreamers
  • Education
  • Family
  • Immigration
  • Mixed-status families
  • Work

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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