DACA, public health, and immigrant restrictions on healthcare in the United States

Elsevier, Lancet Regional Health - Americas, Volume 21, May 2023
Park J.K., Yale-Loehr S., Kaur G.

The DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program is the result of an executive action by President Barack Obama in 2012 to serve as a temporary stopgap measure for a small subset of the undocumented population in the United States. The DACA program does not provide formal immigration status, but rather is a form of prosecutorial discretion that provides work authorization and deportation deferral. Because DACA was implemented through executive action, some critics have argued that it does not reflect the result of compromise that is often required for major pieces of legislation. However, providing some form of protection for DACA recipients has consistently enjoyed bipartisan support.

A recent decision in the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Texas v. United States held that the DACA program is unlawful. The decision also barred new DACA applications. The court returned a portion of the case back to the district court, where some speculate the DACA program will be terminated. This Viewpoint discusses the consequences of these developments for broader efforts to expand access to healthcare for immigrant populations in the United States. Although the potential end of DACA creates urgent issues regarding continuity of care, it also affords a crucial opportunity to rethink long-standing restrictions on government-sponsored healthcare subsidies.