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The Impact of Mixed Immigration Status on the Relationship between Mexican/Mexican American Siblings


Among mixed-status siblings (i.e., an undocumented sibling and a U.S. born citizen), the difference in immigration status may serve to strengthen or diminish the quality of their relationship. This qualitative study utilized a narrative inquiry framework to explore the stories of eight Mexican/Mexican American mixed-status sibling dyads living in the U.S. Joint, semi-structured life history interviews and a timeline were used to elicit each sibling’s perspective on how mixed immigration status shaped their relationship and identity formation, as well as their mental well-being and relationship within the family. Through a restorying process, eight chronological narratives were created for the purpose of capturing the nuanced experiences of these mixed-status siblings. The chronological narratives revealed complex ways in which differing immigration statuses exerted their influence over time (i.e., past, present, future), in different contexts, and various relationships.

Using thematic analysis, four themes were identified across the eight narratives. First, solidarity, frustration, and guilt in the sibling relationship encompassed the positive and negative experiences in participants’ sibling relationship that derive from mixed immigration status. Second, family roles and expectations emphasized the combination of external and internal pressure to take on roles and expectations in the family based on participants’ respective immigration statuses. Third, the sibling experience of citizenship and undocumented identity described aspects of identity formation that emerge in reference to one’s and siblings’ immigration status. Fourth, stress, uncertainty, and relief from deportation and family separation captured the consequences of mixed immigration status on the emotional well-being of siblings.

The study findings underscore how immigration policies may affect the mental health of mixed-status siblings. Strengthening the sibling relationship may serve to buffer the negative effects of such policies. Findings have implications for clinicians, educators, and policy makers working with mixed-status siblings and their families.

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