Being the target of constant discrimination and marginalization can often cause intense negative psychological reactions and shame for undocumented students. The following qualitative study describes past and current undocumented Latinx students’ experiences of educational inequality in higher education influenced by labels associated with “being undocumented.” In this study we used a constructivist theoretical perspective which enabled us to focus on undocumented participants’ perspectives, experiences, meaning-making processes, values, and beliefs. Data was collected through hour-long, semi-structured interviews with five undocumented students. Student narratives were analyzed using a multi-layered analysis approach: (1) narrative, (2) thematic, and (3) critical incident analysis. Findings for this study provided insight on the narratives of carrying labels, themes associated with various labels, and critical incidents in the narratives and lives of undocumented students. Through our findings, we are able to contribute to existing literature and provide directions for future research.


Undocumented, Students, Labels, Latinx, Narratives, Critical Incidents

Author Bio(s)

Yue (Brian) Shi, M.A., is currently a doctoral candidate in Counseling Psychology at Arizona State University. His research interests include various topics surrounding multiculturalism and diversity, including acculturation of immigrant families, alternative forms of cultural treatment for physical and psychological symptoms, cultural factors associated with clinical supervision for counseling trainees, and understanding the unique experiences of undocumented students in higher education. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: yue.shi@asu.edu.

Laura E. Jimenez-Arista, Ph.D., is a faculty associate at Arizona State University. She is a national certified counselor (NCC) and psychologist. She earned a Master’s in Counseling (M.C.) and a Ph.D. Degree in Counseling Psychology (Arizona State University). Her research interests include the study of processes in psychotherapy, the prevention of child sexual abuse, and the study of multicultural issues. She has published qualitative research on multicultural issues and quantitative research on psychotherapy processes and outcome. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: Lejimene@asu.edu.

Joshua Cruz, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of qualitative methods in the College of Education at Texas Tech University. He is especially interested in qualitative methodologies, critical theory, college student development, and writing studies. He currently serves as an assistant editor to Taboo: The Journal of Culture and Education. A recent recipient of Arizona State University's Graduate and Professional Student Association’s teaching excellence award, he has taught classes on qualitative methodologies, writing, and educational foundations. He further enjoys engaging with his community, and volunteers his time to the YMCA, local schools, and various projects related to education, tutoring, and mentoring. Additionally, his research sometimes overlaps with his personal hobbies, which include capoeira and circus performance. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: joshua.cruz@ttu.edu.

Terrence McTier, Jr., M.A., is currently a doctoral candidate in Educational Policy and Evaluation at Arizona State University. He is passionate about diversity and equity access, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people, and college students with criminal records pursuing or interested in higher education. Additionally, in an effort to create opportunities and promising practices for everyone, specifically the currently and formerly incarcerated, McTier is doing research around said population to help encourage a shared future in higher education. McTier has worked with the Juvenile Justice Institute through the University of Nebraska-Omaha and the Lancaster County Department of Corrections as a teacher and correctional officer. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: Terrence.mctier@gmail.com.

Mirka Koro-Ljungberg (Ph.D., University of Helsinki) is a Professor of qualitative research at the Arizona State University. Her scholarship operates in the intersection of methodology, philosophy, and socio-cultural critique and her work aims to contribute to methodological knowledge, experimentation, and theoretical development across various traditions associated with qualitative research. She has published in various qualitative and educational journals and she is the author of Reconceptualizing Qualitative Research: Methodologies without Methodology (2016) published by SAGE and co-editor of Disrupting Data in Qualitative Inquiry: Entanglements with the Post-Critical and Post-Anthropocentric (2017) by Peter Lang. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: Mirka.Koro-Ljungberg@asu.edu.

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