The study examines the impact of the DACA policy on birth outcomes

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When Beatrice Rea Flores was getting her undergraduate degree at Fresno State, she was also expecting her first child. As a Dreamer, she said threats to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program at the time became stressful for her during her pregnancy. Luckily, it didn’t affect her baby, but she knows that can’t be said for others.

I think it’s important to have protections and/or rights for DACA recipients, especially mothers, because we’re doing everything we can to be educated, trained, and legally in the country as individuals, but if you wait, [as] a student about to graduate, it’s a little different,” Flores said. “Now I have two children born in America, I’m educated and I’m scared. I believe that everything that affects me affects them, and it shouldn’t be like that.”

Fresno State researchers Central Valley Health Policy Institute and University of California, San Francisco set out to study this topic and recently published a research, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Birth Outcomes in California: A Quasi-Experimental Study Examining the Relationship Between the DACA Program and Positive Birth Outcomes.

“We started this study because more research is needed to understand the impact of immigration status on birth outcomes and the impact of immigration-related policies on mothers and babies,” said Dr. Tanya Pacheco-Werner, co-director of Central Valley Health. Policy Institute and senior author of the project.

“This study provides some of the first evidence of DACA’s impact on birth outcomes and is the first to examine the long-term effects of the program. The study highlights the importance of policy for health and how vulnerability to policy can similarly affect outcomes.”

In 2012, President Barack Obama issued an executive order creating the DACA program, a policy that provides temporary relief from deportation and work authorization for undocumented immigrants who arrived as children. In 2017, President Donald Trump ordered an end to the program.

The results of the study, which began in 2009, show that DACA was associated with modest improvements in birth weight outcomes among Mexican-born mothers and those whose births were paid for by Medicaid in the three years immediately after DACA was enacted (from 2012 to 15) as to the pre-DACA period (2009-12).

“However, these positive effects were no longer evident when we compared the impact of DACA on birth outcomes in the following three years (2015-18) — the period of direct threats to the DACA program — versus the pre-DACA period,” said Dr. Jackie Torres, an assistant professor Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, UCSF School of Medicine, who served as corresponding author.

In addition to the DACA study, the Central Valley Health Policy Institute is also collaborating with UCSF Fresno on the EMBRACE study, which also examines birth outcomes, particularly the impact of prenatal care on preterm birth, anxiety and depression.

Going forward, Pacheco-Werner, Torres and other researchers plan to expand their research related to immigration policy and its health outcomes in these communities.

“DACA recipients are an important part of the California State University community, including at Fresno State,” Pacheco-Werner said. “Understanding how protections for this group can have longer-term benefits is important. Now the Biden administration is studying a the rule preserve and strengthen the DACA program. Evidence of its potential benefits and what needs to be considered if it is not a permanent policy are important to this conversation.”

Other Fresno State faculty and staff involved in this study are Emmanuel Alcala, assistant director of Fresno State’s Central Valley Health Department, and Amber Shaver, a faculty member in the Department of Psychology.

To learn more, contact Pacheco-Werner at tpacheco@csufresno.edu.

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