Racist nativism and nationalist rhetoric: Implications for the mental health and well-being of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) students



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The political discourse since Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and election victory has focused increasingly on Latinx immigrants. This election victory and the campaign preceding it has been a historical moment with long lasting impacts and effects on today’s Latinx undocumented youth including those with Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) status. This thesis draws from Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Latinx Critical Theory (LatCrit) to build upon existing research concerning racist nativist and nationalist forms of racism and discrimination that recognize immigration, language, ethnicity, and culture. More specifically, this study examines DACA students’ perceptions of racist nativist and nationalist forms of racism, as well as perceptions of their mental health and well-being since the 2016 presidential election. Additionally, there is an examination of DACA students’ perceived sense of protection from the current sociopolitical climate through involvement in institutional support programs. This study analyzes qualitative interview data from thirteen DACA students within the University of Houston system. The themes that emerged from the interview data demonstrate perceptions of increased racist nativist and nationalist forms of racism experienced by DACA students despite residing in the most racially and ethnically diverse city in the nation, Houston, Texas. Not only did DACA students in this study perceive a heightened amount of racist nativism and nationalism, they also perceived negative mental health and well-being since the 2016 presidential election. In spite of these perceived negative effects, DACA students displayed a great deal of resilience and persistence throughout their studies. This thesis concludes with a discussion on the perceived benefits of DACA specific university support programs including peer support, empowerment, and access to resources. This research reveals important findings and implications for theory, practice, and policy concerning undocumented students and the intersection of legal status.



Racist nativism, DACA, Immigration, Mental health