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Marriage and Legalization: Legal Consciousness of Latina/o Young Adults Navigating Marriage-Based Legalization Pathways


This master’s thesis examines the experiences and legal consciousness of undocumented young adults during the marital-based legalization process. In this work I ask: (1) How do 1.5 generation undocumented Latina/o young adults experience and navigate the marriage-based legalization process? (2) How do undocumented young adults negotiate the social and cultural expectations of marriage? (3) How do structural limitations due to legal status and gendered expectations lead men and women to experience and negotiate the marriage based legalization process? I examine these questions through twelve in-depth interviews with undocumented Latina/o young adults in Los Angeles, California. Complementing the interviews, I conduct observational fieldwork with legal and immigration clinics. In examining the experiences of undocumented young adults, historically excluded from processes granting legality, my research bridges scholarship on illegality to legality to expand knowledge about the legalizing process, the long-term effects of illegality, and the ways gendered, social and cultural expectations of marriage interact with immigration policy.

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