Deconstructing Immigrant Illegality: A Mixed-Methods Investigation of Stress and Health Among Undocumented College Students
- 868 Downloads
Research has established that being undocumented is a risk factor for mental and physical health conditions. Much of this work emphasizes undocumented immigrants’ chronic stress, yet key questions about pathways to health remain. The mere state of being undocumented is viewed as a general stressor, without considering actual levels of stress or identifying dimensions of documentation status that contribute to overall stress levels. Drawing on surveys and interviews with undocumented students at the University of California, we uncover the everyday manifestations of four dimensions of immigrant “illegality”: academic concerns, future concerns, financial concerns, and deportation concerns, and their association with reported stress levels and self-rated health. Survey data establish undocumented students’ high levels of stress and poorer health, in comparison to previous research on other national samples. In a structural equation model, we found academic and future concerns to be significantly associated with higher stress, which was in turn, associated with poorer self-rated health. Financial concerns were not associated with higher perceived stress but were directly associated with poorer self-rated health. Notably, deportation concerns did not have any significant independent associations with stress or health. We use our qualitative data to identify specific stressors embedded within these four dimensions. Our findings inform understandings of the health risks arising from documentation status.
KeywordsDocumentation status Immigrant illegality Stress Mixed-methods College students
We would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their comments on previous drafts. Special thanks to our participants, our community research partners, and Undocumented Student Equity Project collaborators (Dr. Edelina Burciaga, Miroslava Guzman Perez, Daniel Millán, and Daisy Vazquez Vera). Biblia Cha, Boonyarit Daraphant, Vanessa Delgado, and Erica Solis provided research assistance.
This study was funded by John Randolph and Dora Haynes Foundation, University of California Consortium on Social Science and Law, University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States, University of California Office of the President, UC Irvine Council on Research, Computing, and Libraries, UC Irvine Office of Inclusive Excellence, UC Irvine Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, and UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment.
- Abrego, L. J. (2014). Latino immigrants’ diverse experiences of “illegality”. In C. Menjívar & D. Kanstroom (Eds.), Constructing immigrant “illegality”: Critiques, experiences, and responses (pp. 139–160). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Batalova, J., Ruiz Soto, A. G., Pierce, S., & Capps, R. (2017). Differing DREAMs: Estimating the unauthorized populations that could benefit under different legalization bills. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute.Google Scholar
- Capps, R., Fix, M., & Zong, J. (2017). The education and work profiles of the DACA population. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute.Google Scholar
- Cho, E. Y. (2017). Revisiting ethnic niches: A comparative analysis of the labor market experiences of Asian and Latino undocumented young adults. RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, 3(4), 97–115.Google Scholar
- Consedine, N. S., Magai, C., Krivoshekova, Y. S., Ryzewicz, L., & Neugut, A. I. (2004). Fear, anxiety, worry, and breast cancer screening behavior: A critical review. Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Biomarkers, 13(4), 501–510.Google Scholar
- Enriquez, L. E. (2016). “I talk to them but I don’t know them”: Undocumented young adults negotiating belonging in the U.S. through conversations with Mexico. In M. Friedman & S. Schultermandl (Eds.), Click and kin: Transnational identity and quick media. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
- Enriquez, L. E. (2019). Border-hopping Mexicans, law-abiding Asians, and racialized illegality: Analyzing undocumented college students experiences through a relational lens. In N. Molina & D. Martinez HoSang (Eds.), Relational formations of race: Theory, method and practice. Berkeley: University of California Press (Forthcoming).Google Scholar
- Enriquez, L. E., Burciaga, E. M., Cardenas, T., Cha, B., Delgado, V., & Perez Guzman, M., et al. (2018). How can universities foster educational equity for undocumented college students: Lessons from the University of California. Los Angeles, CA: UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (Forthcoming).Google Scholar
- Enriquez, L. E., & Millán, D. (2017). “I’ve never really thought about it”: Challenging deportability as the primary experience of illegality. Paper presented at the Law and Society Association Annual Meeting, Mexico City, MX.Google Scholar
- Gonzales, R. G. (2016). Lives in limbo: Undocumented and coming of age in America. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Hudd, S., Dumlao, J., Erdmann-Sager, D., Murray, D., Phan, E., Soukas, N., et al. (2000). Stress at college: Effects on health habits, health status and self-esteem. College Student Journal, 34(2), 217–227.Google Scholar
- Menjívar, C., & Kanstroom, D. (Eds.). (2014). Constructing immigrant “illegality”: Critiques, experiences, and responses. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- NILC. (2017). Table: Laws & policies improving access to higher education for immigrants. http://www.nilc.org/issues/education/eduaccesstoolkit2a/-tables. Accessed 9 Sept 2017.
- Novak, N., Geronimus, A. T., & Martinez-Cardoso, A. (2017). Change in birth outcomes among infants born to Latina mothers after a major immigration raid. International Journal of Epidemiology, 46(3), 839–849.Google Scholar
- Passel, J. S., & Cohn, D. (2015). Share of unauthorized immigrant workers in production, construction jobs falls since 2007. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center.Google Scholar
- Ross, S., Neibling, B., & Heckert, T. (1999). Sources of stress among college students. College Student Journal, 33(22), 312.Google Scholar
- Schermelleh-Engel, K., & Moosbrugger, H. (2003). Evaluating the fit of structural equation models: Tests of significance and descriptive goodness-of-fit measures. Methods of Psychological Research, 8(2), 23–74.Google Scholar
- Smith, G. (2008). Does gender influence online survey participation?: A record-linkage analysis of university faculty online survey response behavior. ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 501717.Google Scholar
- Teranishi, R. T., Suárez-Orozco, C., & Suárez-Orozco, M. (2015). The shadows of the ivory tower: Undocumented undergraduates and the liminal state of immigration reform. Los Angeles, CA: The Institute for Immigration, Globalization, & Education, UC Los Angeles.Google Scholar
- USCIS (2017). Consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA). http://www.uscis.gov/archive/consideration-deferred-action-childhood-arrivals-daca. Accessed 9 Oct 2017.