This qualitative thematic analysis study explored the experiences of DREAMers, undocumented students raised in the US awaiting the passage of the DREAM Act. We used a phenomenologically-informed textual analysis which resulted in a summary essence of the experience of DREAMers, describing how even though DREAMers are like other contributing members of society “except for a nine-digit number,” certain characteristics make their experience unique. Two websites containing experiences of individuals identifying as DREAMers as they wait for the passage of the DREAM Act, were analyzed to draw out specific themes that represented DREAMers’ experiences. Results revealed the following themes, Uncertainty about the Future, Resilience in Spite of Barriers, Education as a Form of Identity and Empowerment, the Influence of Time, Family Sacrifices for a Better Life, Disconnect from their Countries of Origin, the Meaning of “Undocumented,” and “Collective Survival.” These were summarized in a description of the essence of the phenomenon. These themes suggest implications for researchers and mental health professionals working with this population and highlight the significance of the unique experiences of DREAMers.


DREAMers, DREAM Act, Undocumented, Thematic Analysis, Phenomenology, Immigration

Author Bio(s)

Joanna Méndez-Pounds is with the Children’s Advocacy Center of the South Plains and Abilene Christian University - Dallas. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: jxm16g@acu.edu.

Denise Nicholas Williams is with Indiana Wesleyan University in Indianapolis, Indiana. Correspondence regarding this article can be directly addressed to: denise.williams2@indwes.edu.

Natali Gonzalez is with the Marriage and Family Therapy Program at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: natali.gonzalez@ttu.edu.

Jason B. Whiting is with the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University in Provo, UT. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: jason.whiting@byu.edu.

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