Theses Doctoral

The Elusive Dream: The Making of A New Mexican American Experience From Undocumented to Illegal

Valdez, Nicol M.

This dissertation is a study on Mexican-American families focusing on undocumented parents with U.S. born children. I argue that these families represent the most contemporary wave of migrants to enter the United States without documentation since the late 1990s and early 2000s. Research on social inequality situates transmission processes between parents and children, I show how undocumented status can be transmitted and experienced through the creation of a particular social context that encapsulates entire families, including U.S. born children. States, which adopt a legal and institutional framework, aimed at restricting immigrant rights present social and cultural challenges for these parent’s, and their children’s integration experiences. I examine how a process of racialization tied to immigration status translates to what it means to be Mexican American. I observe the ways that social support and intra-group relations across Mexican-American communities are weakened because of the increasing stigmatizing element that is undocumented status. By qualitatively capturing families’ experiences across North Carolina and New York, I highlight the meaning and consequences of legal status and detail how it is hindering this group’s progression overall. How families experience undocumented status varies across the individual, community and state levels. Families are learning to adapt to enforcement measures that merely serve to sustain a durable form of inequality that I argue is creating a new Mexican-American experience.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Khan, Shamus
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 21, 2019