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Life after College: Liminal Legality and Political Threats as Barriers to Undocumented Students’ Career Preparation Pursuits


Prior research has established that undocumented immigration status disrupts students’ transition into life after college, but limited research has examined their preparatory experiences in college. Drawing on interviews with 154 undocumented college students and 32 alumni, we examine how immigration status impacts undocumented students’ career planning and preparation. We find that professional development opportunities and college social networks facilitate successful career transitions for both those who received DACA and those who did not. Although DACA facilitates access to a wider variety of professional development opportunities in college, a lack of permanent legal status continues to pose barriers. Yet, both those with and without DACA identify persistent feelings of uncertainty that constrain their career planning, particularly in the face of ongoing political threats to the DACA program. In all, we contend that DACA has supported the post-college transitions of undocumented young adults, but its effects are substantially constrained because it is an increasingly compromised form of liminal legality. We assert that experiences of liminal legality are shifting due to the increasingly temporary and threatened nature of contemporary immigration policy making.

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