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Discovering One’s Undocumented Immigration Status: The Perspectives of College Students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)


Using Communication Privacy Management (Petronio, 2002) and the Revelation Risk Model (Afifi & Steuber, 2009) this study explores Deferred for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients’ discovery of their immigration status. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 40 DACA recipients—primarily of Latinx and Asian backgrounds—across California to explore DACA recipients’ perceptions of: (a) why family members might or might not tell their children (i.e., DACA recipients) about their undocumented status; (b) what such disclosures, when they occur, look like communicatively; (c) how the disclosures affect their family relationships; and (d) how the disclosures affect DACA recipients’ identity. Results suggest different emerging themes of the disclosure process (e.g., DACA recipients’ perceptions of their family members’ disclosure motivations and disclosure-strategies used by DACA recipients’ parents) for DACA recipients who learned of their undocumented status as children or who always knew their status compared to those who were told their status during adolescence. In addition, our findings shed light on DACA recipients’ perceptions of how this disclosure process influenced their family relationships (e.g., resentment, parental appreciation) and identity reconceptualization (e.g., empowerment, dehumanized). These findings help extend prior communication privacy management scholarship with an understudied group, as well as provide practical implications for DACA recipients and allies that work with immigrant youth communities.

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