`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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Situational triggers and protective locations: conceptualising the salience of deportability in everyday life

Published by Laura E. Enriquez and Daniel Millán (Equal authorship)

Previous research has documented the severe consequences of deportation and conceptualized deportability as a key factor that produces and sustains immigrant illegality. Drawing on interview and survey data with 1.5 generation undocumented young adults in California, we explore the mechanisms that structure the salience of deportability in everyday life. We argue that deportability is a situationally triggered fear that is reduced when individuals occupy protective spatial and social locations that limit their exposure to immigration enforcement mechanisms. Drawing on the case of Californian undocumented young adults, we demonstrate that the more protective locations one occupies, the less likely they are to experience their own deportability as a salient dimension of illegality. In this case, deportability mostly emerges as a fear of family separation and preoccupation with undocumented parents who are less likely to occupy protective locations. Our findings nuance theoretical conceptualizations of the role deportability plays in constructing immigrant illegality.

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Mediating Illegality: Federal, State, and Institutional Policies in the Educational Experiences of Undocumented College Students

Published by Laura E. Enriquez, Martha Morales Hernandez, Daniel Millán, and Daisy Vazquez Vera

Immigration federalism scholarship has established that state and local government policies can make federally defined immigration status more or less consequential. Drawing primarily on focus groups and interviews with 184 undocumented students attending the University of California, we suggest that institutional policies work alongside state and local efforts to mediate the consequences of illegality for undocumented students. We find that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, state-funded financial aid policies, and university support programs all facilitate the integration of undocumented students by increasing access to higher education and enabling fuller participation. Although federal policies contribute to persistent barriers to academic engagement and professional development, we show that universities can intervene to improve educational experiences and opportunities. Ultimately, we argue that university policies are a key site for intervening in immigration policy and constructing immigrant illegality.

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