Project Title: Role of Immigration Status on Undocumented and DACAmented Adolescents’ Social-Emotional Development, Educational Experiences and Aspirations, and Family Processes

Faculty Sponsor: Toko Oshio

Department: Education

Telephone: 810.762.3260


Project Description: Immigration is a subject of much political debate. Despite the sensitivities surrounding U.S. immigration policy, currently over two million undocumented children and youth under 18 years old live in the United States (Congressional Budget Office, 2007). Federal law states that children in the US, regardless of their immigration status, have the right to public K-12 education. What happens to undocumented/DACAmented students after high school is much less certain. For these students, postsecondary education access is restricted, and postsecondary education enrollment by undocumented/DACAmented students is very low (25%), compared to documented immigrants (53%) and U.S. born students (62%). While undocumented/DACAmented youth face a number of distinct challenges due to their immigration status, there is limited research on the life experiences and outcomes of this marginalized population. Research is needed in order to better inform the debate on immigration generally and understand the circumstances concomitant with growing up undocumented/DACAmented in the US.

Taking an ecological perspective, this study will investigate how undocumented/DACAmented status shapes adolescents’ social-emotional development, educational experiences and educational/career aspirations, and family processes using a phenomenological research design. In collaboration with community-based organizations in the city of Flint, Michigan, adolescents ages 15-17 years (10th and 11th graders) and their parents will be recruited to participate in this study. Two interviews per each participant (adolescent and his/her parent) will be conducted separately within a 3-month period. The interview data will be transcribed and coded to discover common themes among participants.

The findings from this study will provide information about growing up undocumented/DACAmented in the US that is needed if we as a nation wish to make our communities stronger and healthier and responsive to the needs of the people they serve every day. By uncovering how adolescents' social-emotional development, experiences in K-12 education, and family processes are shaped by their immigration status, this study will examine how these students' development, experiences, and aspirations are related to their well-being and perception of education. Further, the findings will contribute to enhancing local support systems off and on campus of the University of Michigan-Flint by possibly providing specific resources and information available to the undocumented/DACAmented students and their families in the community of Flint.

Student Tasks & Responsibilities: U of M-Flint Student Research Assistants, who are fluent in Spanish, will support the PIs by engaging in some aspects of this investigation. Mainly, they will assist the PIs by organizing many aspects of this study, organizing participants' recruitment in the community, translating transcribed interview data in Spanish to English, coding data, and will learn analyzing data and the process of writing manuscripts. If they wish, depending on their level of involvement, they will have opportunities to work on manuscript writing as co-authors.

Minimum Student Qualifications: Desired qualification: Fluent in Spanish, computer skills (i.e., Word, Excel), professional oral and written communication skills, self-disciplined, and ability to pay attention and follow through.