Undocumented Latino College Students: Their Socioemotional and Academic Experiences

Undocumented Latino College Students: Their Socioemotional and Academic Experiences

Undocumented Latino College Students: Their Socioemotional and Academic Experiences

Undocumented Latino College Students: Their Socioemotional and Academic Experiences

Synopsis

Pérez and Cortés examine how undocumented Latino community college students cope with the challenges created by their legal status. They find that students experience feelings of shame, anger, despair, marginalization, and uncertainty stemming from discrimination, anti-immigrant sentiment, fear of deportation, and systemic barriers (e.g., ineligibility for financial aid). Despite moments of despair and an uncertain future, rather than become dejected, students reframe their circumstances in positive terms. Findings also highlight the importance of student advocates on campus, as well as the need to educate college personnel. The conclusion discusses the socioemotional implications of students' ongoing legal marginality, and makes suggestions for institutional practices.

Excerpt

Despite their strong belief that the U.S. is the land of opportunity, undocumented immigrants are often stigmatized with labels like “wetbacks,” “illegal aliens,” and even “criminals.” The undocumented community college Latino students we interviewed for this study often described their life as both cursed and blessed. One of the students, Guillermo, poignantly captured the general feeling among students about living in the shadows of American society:

Being an undocumented student in the United States is like
being “cursed and blessed” at the same time. Cursed, in that
you are marginalized by society, and you have to live in fear
almost every day. Blessed, in that you learn from that
experience, and you become a much better person because of
everything that you have struggled with…. You work 10 times
as hard as, maybe, somebody who takes it for granted because
they were born in this country, or somebody who is a legal
resident and doesn’t know exactly what that means and the
power they have.

Guillermo, who was identified as gifted in elementary school, had no choice but to turn down his offer of admission to the University of California, Berkeley because he did not qualify for federal and institutional financial aid. He tried vigorously to raise money through private scholarships and sponsors to pay for his tuition and housing expenses, but he was unable to come up with the amount he needed. This major setback forced Guillermo to give up his opportunity to . . .

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