Latino Studies

, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 279–299 | Cite as

Disrupting the dream: Undocumented youth reframe citizenship and deportability through anti-deportation activism

  • Tania A Unzueta Carrasco
  • Hinda Seif
Original Article


This essay analyzes how undocumented 1.5 generation activists respond to, disrupt and challenge state definitions of citizenship and belonging. The authors look at the work of the Immigrant Youth Justice League (IYJL), an immigrant rights group led by undocumented organizers in Chicago, with a focus on how they frame responses to federal deportation policies and deportations. This activism takes place in the context of a movement led by undocumented 1.5 generation youth whose tactics have included first-person testimony and civil disobedience. This is significant because they place the undocumented body at the forefront of the national dialog on immigration. Through interviews with members of the organization, analysis of first-hand documents and one author’s experience as an IYJL co-founder, we find that young undocumented activists increasingly fight for people who do not fit the nation-state’s parameters for accessing citizenship or relief from deportation. The state regulates access to citizenship, rights and deportation based on moral and hegemonic frameworks, systematic prejudices and socio-economic conditions. When young undocumented activists challenge these frames, they disrupt the power of the nation-state to make these determinations, and expand the debate about and boundaries of citizenship.


undocumented deportation activism youth Chicago immigration 



We would like to thank the members of the Immigrant Youth Justice League for allowing us into their process and space, as well as organizers from around the country who also have influenced and shaped the fight against deportations and for the rights of immigrants. In addition, we are grateful to the faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Latin American and Latino Studies Program for their unwavering support.


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tania A Unzueta Carrasco
    • 1
  • Hinda Seif
    • 2
  1. 1.Independent researcherWashington
  2. 2.University of IllinoisSpringfield

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