Saturday, April 25, 2015

Maria Chavez: Immigration Reform and the Impacts on Undocumented Latino Youth


Yesterday, ImmigrationProf posted the Ted talk of Professor Maria Chavez on the de-Americanization of Latino youth.  Here is a follow-up blog post by Maria:


The decades-long lack of reasonable immigration reform by Congress has profound consequences on undocumented Latino youth.

First, there is the very real possibility of the destruction of their families by detention and deportations— more than 400,000 deportation in 2012 alone, over 5000 children being placed in foster care, and over 50,000 children missing either one or more parents due to deportations in what is referred to as “collateral damage.”

Second, despite Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), many obstacles remain.  Harvard professor Roberto G. Gonzales highlights some of these obstacles including difficulty completing college, as many undocumented youth still do not have access to federal financial aid, or being at a permanent disadvantage regarding work experience resulting in a type of stratified economic and social incorporation.  This is especially evident with Mexican-origin youth who so often lack greater resources.

Finally, there is the issue of having one’s identity stripped away in the process of what Bill Ong Hing terms “de-Americanization.” Here are some examples of this de-Americanization that my co-authors and I uncovered in our data of 101 in-depth interviews with undocumented Latino youth in four states:

 Samuel[1] who has been living in the United States since the age of 5, states:

“Mexican. . . well, like, I know I’m Mexican definitely but. . . I know I’m Mexican, but I definitely see myself as a little whitewashed. . . Mexican-American as well. I mean, I have, only my roots tie me to Mexico, I haven’t really visited, I don’t really know much, so. . . .”

Josefina who has been living in the U.S. since she was an infant, states:

A: I think I’m Mexican. . . . I mean, I don’t know, I’m like, because I’m not, like you know, how my parents are here, I guess, people are considered to be Mexican-American either because they’re born here and their parents are Mexican, or if your parents were born here and you. . . I don’t know, because I do feel myself as American, but then I do love being Mexican.

Q: Yeah.

A: Because I was born here and I kind of, I kind of feel this is my home.

Q: Born here?

A: [laughing] I’m not, I mean, not born here, but you know, like . . . I feel like I was born here, that’s why . . . I think I would say Mexican-American/Chicano.

Raquel who has been living in the United States since the age of 8, states:

“I guess, Mexican. . . I mean, I guess . . . it’s ’cause, like, I feel like, if I was to go to Mexico I feel like, I don’t even belong there . . . ’cause I was raised, like, American . . . so, but I, I’m not, I’m not Chicano ’cause I’m Mexican Mexican. So I guess Mexican.”

Bianca who has been living in the United States since the age of 8, states:

" That’s when it hits you that you realize that you’re in the system but they don’t really want you to contribute to it, ‘cause you don’t have that number, and you feel discouraged. Thrown out. Segregated. Like a leftover."

The long term effects of these three consequences--being torn apart from one’s families, being disadvantaged economically and socially, and being treated as an outsider in the country you grow up in can derail a person’s life in very damaging ways.  And this is all due to the lack of reasonable immigration policy leaving 5 million undocumented Latino youth feeling like “left overs.” Unwanted and disregarded by the only country that they know. De-Americanized in a nation of immigrants.  As Franklin D. Roosevelt once stated: “Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”

[1] The names used in our research are pseudonyms.


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