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Exclusionary Incorporation: Race and Immigration Status in Latina/o High School Students’ Academic Integration and Social Exclusion

  • Author(s): Chavarria, Karina
  • Advisor(s): Ortiz, Vilma
  • et al.

Much of the scholarship on Latina/o undocumented young adults has focused on their college and labor market participation, with few studies documenting on-the-ground their experiences in K-12 schools. Even fewer studies comparatively examine U.S. born and undocumented Latina/o students’ incorporation in the academic and social spaces in schools. To fill these gaps in scholarship, I draw on five years of school ethnography, in-depth interviews with 50 Latina/o high school students (25 undocumented immigrant and 25 U.S. born), and follow-up conversations one year post-high school. I find that Latina/o students, irrespective of immigration status, experience an exclusionary incorporation in school because the racial dynamics within K-12 educational institutions continue to fragment their opportunities to succeed. Specifically, I explore how race, undocumented immigration status, and working-class position influence their structural integration in academic programs and inclusion in the social channels at Hillcrest high school. While immigrant incorporation scholars point to Latina/o youth’s trailing patterns in educational attainment, I argue that we need to examine the centrality of race and racialization in schools as these affect Latina/o youth’s divergent paths of participation in social institutions. Thus, I conceive of school incorporation as a process by which students become structurally integrated in the school’s academic hierarchy and socially included to reap the benefits of participating in top academic programs, capturing structural and inter-personal features of school processes that shape racial disparities in educational attainment. This emphasizes the centrality of racism in K-12 schools, and demonstrates its impact on the exclusionary incorporation of immigrant youth and the children of immigrants.

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