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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Where Do We Go From Here Undocumented Youth and an Effort Requiring the Entire Village?


For 1.5-generation undocumented youth, the transitions from childhood to adolescence and adulthood involve exiting the legally protected status of K-12 students and entering into adult roles that require legal status as a basis for participation. Gonzales’ research finds that this collision among contexts makes for a turbulent transition and has profound implications for identity formation, friendship patterns, aspirations and expectations, and social and economic mobility. As undocumented children make important life course transitions, they move from protected to unprotected, from inclusion to exclusion, from de facto legal to illegal. Moreover, as these young people move into early adulthood between shifting legal contexts, they must learn to be “illegal,” a process involving an almost complete retooling of daily routines, survival skills, aspirations, and social patterns. These findings have important implications for the studies of immigrant 1.5 vs. 2nd generations, their transitions to adulthood, and the specific and complex ways in which legal status intervenes in their coming of age.

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