I feel like I was born here: Social identity, political socialization, and deAmericanization

  • Joe R. TafoyaEmail author
  • Melissa R. Michelson
  • Maria Chávez
  • Jessica L. Lavariega Monforti
Original Article


Undocumented immigrants who have grown up in America, often called DREAMers, generally grow up unaware of their lack of legal status, thinking of themselves as equal and legitimate members of the polity—as Americans. Scholars have noted the high levels of political activism of DREAMers, often at personal risk of detention and deportation. Negrón-Gonzales (Lat Stud 12(2):259–278, 2014) attributes this activism to the tension between their legal (juridical) and lived (subjective) identities; Abrego (Law Soc Rev 45(2):337–339, 2011) attributes it to their sense of belonging and their awareness of existing or possible rights. Here, using a set of 101 in-depth semi-structured interviews, we build on that scholarship to link undocumented Latino youth activism to their need to maintain a positive social identity, and to DREAMers’ powerful psychological identities as Americans. The perspectives shared in those interviews provide important insights into identity formation and identity stickiness and the “undocumented and unafraid” movement.


Undocumented Immigrants Latina/o Socialization Citizenship Identity DREAM act DREAMer DACA Deferred action for childhood arrivals 

Siento que he nacido aquí: Identidad social, socialización política y desamericanización


Los inmigrantes indocumentados que se han criado en los Estados Unidos, conocidos como DREAMers, por lo general crecen sin tener consciencia de que no poseen un estatus legal; se ven como integrantes iguales y legítimos del sistema político y se sienten americanos. Los académicos se han percatado del alto nivel de activismo político entre los DREAMers, lo que a menudo representa un riesgo personal de detención y deportación. Negrón-Gonzáles (2014) atribuye este activismo a la tensión entre sus identidades legales (jurídicas) y sus identidades vividas (subjetivas); Abrego (2011) lo atribuye a su sentido de pertenencia y su consciencia de los derechos existentes o posibles. Por medio de un conjunto de 101 entrevistas detalladas y semiestructuradas, aportamos a esas investigaciones académicas vinculando el activismo de los jóvenes latinos con su necesidad de mantener una identidad social positiva y con las fuertes identidades psicológicas que tienen los DREAMers como americanos. Las perspectivas intercambiadas en estas entrevistas ofrecen percepciones importantes sobre la formación de la identidad y la adherencia a la identidad, así como del movimiento de “indocumentados sin miedo”.

Palabras clave

Indocumentado inmigrante latino/a socialización ciudadanía identidad Ley DREAM DREAMer DACA acción diferida para los llegados en la infancia 



We are indebted to the undocumented youth whose narratives are evidence in this research. Your perseverance has cast an unmistakable influence on US politics. ¡Adelante!


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joe R. Tafoya
    • 1
    Email author
  • Melissa R. Michelson
    • 2
  • Maria Chávez
    • 3
  • Jessica L. Lavariega Monforti
    • 4
  1. 1.University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  2. 2.Menlo CollegeAthertonUSA
  3. 3.Pacific Lutheran UniversityTacomaUSA
  4. 4.California Lutheran UniversityThousand OaksUSA

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