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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Undocumented Students, Institutional Allies, and Transformative Resistance: An Institutional Case Study

  • Author(s): Chen, Angela Chuan-Ru
  • Advisor(s): Rhoads, Robert A
  • et al.

This study focuses on the capacity of colleges and universities to minimize educational inequalities experienced by undocumented students. It analyzes the role of student activism in prompting institutional accountability and successful practices used by institutional allies, such as faculty and administrators, in order to create a model for improving undocumented student success. My research and writing is centered in critical pedagogy, critical race theory, and feminist frameworks. These theoretical perspectives provide the lens to analyze interviewees' understanding of educational disparities and their sense of agency to maintain and/or resist existing institutional structures. This lens offers a framework to analyze the disenfranchised educational experiences of undocumented students and to examine their counter narratives within the larger social, economic, historical, and political contexts to understand external factors that shape discriminatory institutional practices. In-dept interviews were gathered from 23 institutional allies who shared their experiences working with undocumented students and also from 21 undocumented students regarding their experiences navigating the institution. Interviews with students illuminate their challenges and perspectives on efforts made by institutional allies. The findings indicate that institutions, given the discretion they have within legal boundaries, do act on behalf of undocumented students; however, a gap remains between student need and institutional resources. In addition, the study suggests institutional and legislative policy changes that would enhance the success of undocumented students in gaining access to and persisting through higher education.

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