Testimonial Engagement: Undocumented Latina Mothers Navigating a Gendered Deportation Regime

  • John Doering-WhiteEmail author
  • Pilar Horner
  • Laura Sanders
  • Ramiro Martinez
  • William Lopez
  • Jorge Delva


This community-based qualitative study investigated the real or threatened impact of immigration enforcement on undocumented mothers as they navigate a “gendered deportation regime.” We analyzed seven interviews with undocumented mothers who have experienced the deportation of someone close to them and live under the constant threat of deportation. Based on an inductive, team-based analysis process, we present case examples of four themes that illustrate how undocumented mothers describe their experience negotiating the aftermath and threat of deportation: quality of life, material possibilities, balancing the social, and engaging with advocacy networks. Findings expand on previous research emphasizing the impact of “deportability” on the everyday lives of undocumented immigrants by attending to gendered aspects of immigration enforcement. As a collaborative research team composed of social work faculty, graduate students, and immigrant rights activists, we also critically engage with our attempts to meld research and community organizing in order to illustrate challenges that scholars and social service practitioners face when working with undocumented populations.


Undocumented immigrants Mothers Deportation Community organizing 



We gratefully acknowledge the help and contributions of the families who courageously shared their testimonios with us. In addition, we want to thank the Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights for their guidance and their unwavering commitment to improving the lives of vulnerable populations.


This work was supported by a grant from the School of Social Work Vivian A. and James L. Curtis Research and Training Center, University of Michigan, and the Center for Research on Ethnicity Culture and Health at the School of Public Health, University of Michigan.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Doering-White
    • 1
    Email author
  • Pilar Horner
    • 2
  • Laura Sanders
    • 3
  • Ramiro Martinez
    • 4
  • William Lopez
    • 5
  • Jorge Delva
    • 6
  1. 1.Social Work and AnthropologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.School of Social Work and the Julian Samora Research InstituteMichigan State UniversityLansingUSA
  3. 3.School of Social WorkUniversity of Michigan, and cofounder of Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights (WICIR)Ann ArborUSA
  4. 4.WICIRAnn ArborUSA
  5. 5.School of Public HealthUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  6. 6.School of Social WorkUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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