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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Navigating a Climate of Fear: Adolescent Arrivals and the Trump Era

  • Author(s): Rodriguez, Liliana V
  • Advisor(s): Telles, Edward E
  • et al.

This study explores the incorporation processes of adolescent arrivlas who migrated to the United States prior to the presidential election of 2016, the majority from Mexico. Adolescent arrivals are immigrant youth between the ages of 13 and 18 referred to in the literature as members of the 1.25-generation. I conducted ethnographic work with 30 adolescent arrivals both documented and undocumented in a community in California’s central coast region. This study interrogates notions of belonging by examining how the current political and social contexts of white supremacy, anti-immigrant discourses and policies, and nativist rhetoric, influence the integration of adolescent arrivals in the United States. As immigrants and as English Language Learners, these students confront many obstacles both in their academic and personal journeys in the host society, particularly today. The election of Donald Trump brought upon a climate of trepidation and anxiety among these students, who constantly express fears of deportation, racism, and hate crimes. Through the concept I term negotiating liminality—the meaning-making process by which adolescent arrivals adhere to as they make sense, understand, and ultimately respond to political tactics aimed directly at dismantling their communities, I examine their experiences. My analysis reveals adolescent arrivals are not passive individuals that see themselves as victims but instead are active agents negotiating the consequences of being immigrants, English Language Learners, and people with precarious citizenship status, among many other factors that limit their opportunities in the United States.

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