A phenomenological study describing the experiences of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and undocumented students as they navigate college enrollment.


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This study shares an in-depth understanding of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and undocumented young adults navigating college. Given that their immigration status can add a layer of complexity, the goal of this study was to share a more profound understanding of how undocumented young adults have steered the path successfully after high school, on their own, or by accessing resources in their community. The primary research question explored DACA, and undocumented students’ lived experiences as they navigate college enrollment and transition to higher education. This study also examined the driving forces that motivate these students to pursue higher education. Over the last five years, 2017 to 2021, the political climate created an ambiguous environment for undocumented and DACA students. This tumultuous period saw the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy in 2019. However, by mid-June 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Trump administration’s 2017 attempt to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was improper. The legal court challenges on the validity of DACA continue to date. Now more than ever, these students hold on to hope for a fair immigration policy that would create a pathway to legal documentation. The data collection included interviews with nine students that attended a community college. This study applied a transformative lens and Yosso’s (2005b) principles of community cultural wealth to frame the research process, questioning methods, and establishing the relationship between the participant and researcher (Creswell & Poth, 2017). This research offers an added voice supporting DACA and undocumented students. The hope is to illuminate this issue further and encourage changes in immigration policy and higher education enrollment processes to help these students navigate college enrollment and complete a credential. Moreover, this study stresses how urgent this issue is today and emphasizes how it is a matter of social justice and economic significance.



DACA. Undocumented students. College enrollment.