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“We’ll Get Through This Together”: Collective Contribution in the Lives of Latino Undocumented Undergraduates

by Dalal Katsiaficas, Edwin Hernandez, Cynthia M. Alcantar, Erick Samayoa, Maria Nava Gutierrez & Zyshia Williams - 2018

Background: Undocumented undergraduates are a growing population in the United States. Despite being shut out from many resources, such as access to federal financial aid and social services, many are thriving by contributing to their families and communities. Few studies to date have taken a strengths-based approach to understand the lives of undocumented young adults or examined their normative developmental experiences.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine how contribution manifests in the lives of Latino undocumented undergraduates and the extent to which they are engaged in and contribute to their families and communities.

Research Design: This study employed a convergent mixed-methods design in which parallel quantitative and qualitative data were collected and analyzed separately. Through mixed methods, this article examines the family and community responsibilities of a sample of N = 797 Latino undocumented undergraduate student survey respondents, along with three portraits of qualitative visual and verbal narratives in the summer of 2014.

Results: Results highlight the value of “collective contribution” in Latino undocumented immigrant families. Through quantitative methods, results reveal that the majority of Latino undocumented undergraduates are contributing to their families and communities in significant ways. Qualitative findings reveal ways in which cultural values manifest as the reciprocal contribution between individuals and their families and communities. Further, results reveal the varied ways that Latino undocumented undergraduates engage with their families and communities, exhibiting the characteristics of ideal citizens, despite being denied a pathway to citizenship.

Conclusions: The results suggest that Latino undocumented college students are thriving and contributing to the society that gives them conflicting messages about how to belong. Yet, they enter postsecondary institutions and continue to remain engaged in their families and communities. Their engagement has important implications for what type of society we will become and for the need to build on these social resources to make our democracy and community stronger, recognizing immigrants as a resource to strengthen the social fabric of our society.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 120 Number 12, 2018, p. 1-48
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22505, Date Accessed: 7/24/2021 6:58:12 PM

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About the Author
  • Dalal Katsiaficas
    University of Illinois at Chicago
    E-mail Author
    DALAL KATSIAFICAS is an assistant professor of educational psychology at the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her current research focuses on exploring the social development of immigrant-origin youth in a variety of educational settings, with regard to the development of multiple identities and social and academic engagement. Her most recent publication is: Katsiaficas, D. (2017). “I know I’m an adult when . . . I can care for myself and others”: Social responsibilities and emerging into adulthood for community college students. Emerging Adulthood. doi:10.1177/2167696817698301. This study examines the social responsibilities of community college students at they emerge into adulthood. Findings reveal that as young people emerge into adulthood, contributing to family and community comes to the forefront and becomes a fundamental aspect of their adult identities. Another recent publication is: Katsiaficas, D., Alcantar, C. M., Hernandez, E., Gutierrez, M. N., Samayoa, E., Texis, O. R., & Williams, Z. (2016). Important theoretical and methodological turning points for understanding contribution with undocumented undergraduates. Qualitative Psychology, 3(1), 7–25. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/qup0000043; this study describes innovative methodological techniques (e.g., pluralistic qualitative methods) used with a participatory action research (PAR) framework to explore the positive youth development of undocumented undergraduates.
  • Edwin Hernandez
    California State University, San Bernardino
    E-mail Author
    EDWIN HERNANDEZ is an assistant professor in the Counseling and Guidance program in the Department of Special Education, Rehabilitation and Counseling at California State University, San Bernardino. He is also a researcher for the Institute for Immigration, Globalization and Education at the University of California, Los Angeles. His research examines issues of equity and access in education, with a focus on institutional culture and how it shapes students’ experiences across the educational pipeline.
  • Cynthia Alcantar
    Pitzer College
    E-mail Author
    CYNTHIA M. ALCANTAR is a postdoctoral scholar and visiting professor of sociology at Pitzer College. She is also a researcher for the Institute for Immigration, Globalization, and Education (IGE) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Her research focuses on issues of college access and college completion for underrepresented populations, especially as it relates to higher education policy and practice.
  • Erick Samayoa
    University of California, Los Angeles
    E-mail Author
    ERICK SAMAYOA recently graduated from UCLA with a double major in sociology and Chicano studies. He is interested in immigrants' adaptation processes, structural opportunity, and global inequity.
  • Maria Nava Gutierrez
    University of California, Los Angeles
    E-mail Author
    MARIA NAVA GUTIERREZ is a graduate from the UCLA Philosophy and Chicana/o Studies programs and a current law student. Her research interests are centered on mental health issues within the undocumented community and legal advocacy.
  • Zyshia Williams
    University of California, Los Angeles
    E-mail Author
    ZYSHIA WILLIAMS is a junior lease analyst at MBG Consulting in Chicago. Her research interests include education equity, immigrant integration, and environmental and food justice.
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