"Do You Know Who I Am?": Identities and Experiences of Undocumented 1.5-Generation Immigrants

Publication Year:
2018
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Downloads 21
Abstract Views 13
Repository URL:
https://scholar.colorado.edu/socy_gradetds/61
Author(s):
Lambert, Nicole M
Tags:
1.5-generation immigrants; identity; narrative; social movements; undocumented immigrants; Social and Cultural Anthropology; Sociology
thesis / dissertation description
This dissertation draws on participant observation, observation, and interviews with forty-five undocumented 1.5-generation immigrants to investigate how DREAMer activists use narratives to construct their identities, as a mechanism to understand their complex experiences with illegality, and as a tactic in social movement activism. Undocumented 1.5-generation immigrants channeled their assimilation into American culture into successful social movement activism. While their activist strategies were successful in garnering support for the DREAMer movement and creating a collective identity around the 1.5-generation experience, their narratives inadvertently perpetuated stereotypes, obscured intra-group inequalities, and silenced experiences with violence and trauma. Undocumented youth were taught by other activists how to talk about their experiences to convince non-immigrant audiences to support immigration reform. Activist coaching helped these youth craft narratives that accomplished specific goals. Undocumented 1.5-generation immigrants deployed their narratives in diverse settings, such as protests, legislative hearings, and theater performances, in ways that communicated messages about identity to different audiences. Although these narrative strategies garnered political success and aided in the creation of collective identity, they came at personal costs. Undocumented youth avoided narrating experiences that did not fit into dominant movement discourses, which reproduced inequality in interaction. In particular, their public narratives obscured experiences with family violence. Undocumented youth publicly silenced narratives of family violence to avoid perpetuating negative stereotypes about Latinos, but this silence had the unfortunate effect of maintaining gendered inequality in undocumented immigrant families. By analyzing multiple sources of narrative construction (participant observation, observation, and interviews), I began to understand what was or was not being said in different contexts. Ultimately, undocumented 1.5-generation immigrants challenged hegemonic, racist narratives about undocumented immigrants while simultaneously reproducing intra-group inequalities. This research shows how marginalized groups reproduce broader cultural narratives while constructing new, more inclusive discourses. This work contributes to the literature on illegality, undocumented 1.5-generation immigrants, narrative and identity, and social movements.