`To me, it’s not about immigration status’: Divergent perceptions of legal status among undocumented college students

Published by Daniel Millán

In this article, I draw upon interviews with 30 students enrolled in a University of California campus to analyze how undocumented students perceived the extent to which legal status shaped their academic experiences. Divergent perceptions were shaped by immigration policies, exposure to prevalent narratives, and the extent to which immigration status seemed consequential in students’ experiences and identified three types: 1) students with disassociated perceptions ascribed to meritocratic views about academic success and did not consider their legal status a salient barrier; 2) students with dynamic perceptions demonstrated how perceptions can shift through an increased awareness of inequality following experiences with barriers and immigration policy changes; and 3) students with perceptions informed by an awareness of power understood that inequities are produced alongside multiple marginalized social locations. Importantly, perceptions informed by an awareness of power translated to navigational strategies with increased access to academic and socioemotional support.

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