Tracking DACA Recipients’ Access to Health Care

Tracking DACA Recipients’ Access to Health Care

JUNE 2022

National Immigration Law Center


The U.S. health care system is failing immigrants, including recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). These communities face disparities that stem from longstanding racism, housing discrimination, employment discrimination, and poverty, among other social determinants of health. DACA recipients in particular stand at a crossroads of having uncertain access to status, exclusion from much of the health care safety net and family members at risk of deportation. These inequities were exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic, when immigrants were ineligible for some programs providing relief and were overrepresented among essential workers.

This fact sheet reports on findings from a survey of 1,021 DACA recipients administered by Tom K. Wong of the University of California, San Diego, United We Dream, the National Immigration Law Center, and the Center for American Progress, in 2021. In this survey, the authors asked a comprehensive set of questions about DACA recipients’ access to health care and services. The research finds that respondents face significant health disparities.

DACA has been in existence for nearly a decade, after it was first announced in June 2012. Under the program, people who came to the U.S. as children and meet other requirements may receive renewable grants of relief from deportation and work authorization. However, when DACA was established, the Department of Health and Human Services made a determination that recipients would not be considered lawfully present for purposes of eligibility for Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people have been denied eligibility for health insurance tax credits, as well as Medicaid and CHIP coverage in states that have opted to cover lawfully residing children and pregnant people.

View the full report