Date of Conferral





Social Work


Elizabeth Walker


Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) provides a 2-year reprieve from deportation and a work permit for eligible undocumented childhood arrivals. It does not provide a pathway to citizenship or confer rights or protections enjoyed by those with permanent legal status leaving recipients in a constant state of legal limbo. State-level policy can mitigate or exacerbate obstacles faced by this population. The purpose of this generic qualitative study was to explore how federal and state-level policy in a conservative location shaped experiences of membership or exclusion. Responses were examined using segmented assimilation theory to identify layered contexts of reception. The central research question was “how has the intersection of DACA and related state-level policy affected participants’ perceptions of their social exclusion as reflected in their educational access, employment opportunities, and perceptions of belonging in Wisconsin?” Phone interviews were conducted with five DACA recipients and DACA-eligible individuals with thematic coding for data analysis. Results revealed a combination of positive and negative nested contexts among federal, state, and local levels. DACA removed barriers to employment and a driver’s license, while state policy increased obstacles in higher education through higher tuition costs and lack of state financial aid. Institutional and local contexts were instrumental in alleviating the cost of higher education and fostering a sense of belonging. There is a social change opportunity for advocacy at the state and national levels for more inclusive policy and creation of a pathway to permanent legal status for undocumented childhood arrivals.