UndocuScholarship: Check out the work of formerly/currently undocumented scholars!

(Last updated on September 2023)

My Undocumented Life and UndocuPhDs have partnered to curate a list of publications that are written by currently or formerly undocumented folks. This is a growing list that includes books, dissertations/MA thesis, academic articles, chapters, and reports. You can find these and many more UndocuScholarship works on this google folder maintained by UndocuPhDs. We are continuing to expand this list, if you are interested in your work being featured, please complete this form.

Note: This list only features works where the author(s) who identify as formerly/currently undocumented either (1) explicitly stated their immigration status on the publication or (2) completed this form and therefore consented to being featured on the list.

We hope this collection will aid in making UndocuScholarship more readily accessible within and outside of academic spaces. We also know that for undocumented community members, being able to read the work of authors who share the experience of being formerly or currently undocumented, can often serve as a source of inspiration and connection. 

Note: Works are listed in alphabetical order.

Abrego, L. J. & Negron-Gonzales, G. (2020). We Are Not Dreamers: Undocumented Scholars Theorize Undocumented Life in the United States. Duke University Press.

The widely recognized “Dreamer narrative” celebrates the educational and economic achievements of undocumented youth to justify a path to citizenship. While a well-intentioned, strategic tactic to garner political support of undocumented youth, it has promoted the idea that access to citizenship and rights should be granted only to a select group of “deserving” immigrants. The contributors to We Are Not Dreamers—themselves currently or formerly undocumented—poignantly counter the Dreamer narrative by grappling with the nuances of undocumented life in this country. Theorizing those excluded from the Dreamer category—academically struggling students, transgender activists, and queer undocumented parents—the contributors call for an expansive articulation of immigrant rights and justice that recognizes the full humanity of undocumented immigrants while granting full and unconditional rights. Illuminating how various institutions reproduce and benefit from exclusionary narratives, this volume articulates the dangers of the Dreamer narrative and envisions a different way forward.

Aguilar, C. (2019). Undocumented critical theory. Cultural Studies↔Critical Methodologies, 19(3), 152-160.

Despite an increasing body of literature on undocumented immigrants and an improved access to academia by DACAdemics and undocumented scholars, the need for theories about undocumented experiences in the United States persists. In this article, I introduce the central tenets of a developing theory that I call Undocumented Critical Theory (UndocuCrit). Rooted in Critical Race Theory (CRT), Latina/o Critical Theory (LatCrit), and Tribal Critical Race Theory (TribalCrit), UndocuCrit introduces the lens to better understand the nuanced and liminal experiences that characterize undocumented

communities in the United States. Although this initial rendering focuses on the experiences of Mexican immigrants and individuals of Mexican descent, UndocuCrit exhorts DACAdemics and undocumented scholars to contribute to this emerging framework by applying it to their experiences and those of other undocumented communities. As a theoretical framework, UndocuCrit challenges an immigrant binary rhetoric as well as embarking on a journey toward social justice and the empowerment of our communities.

Aguilar, C. (2020). Todo es Diferente en la Frontera: Mixed-Status Familism in the Texas Border Strip. In Rethinking Young People’s Lives Through Space and Place. Emerald Publishing Limited.

Coming of age in the United States as an undocumented immigrant alters traditional rites of passage such as “completing school, moving out of the parental home, establishing employment, getting married, and becoming a parent” (Gonzales, 2011, p. 604). Yet, the implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012 began to reconcile some aspects in the life, educational, and occupational trajectories of nearly 800,000 youths. It is in the context of moving out of the parental home or relocating that this chapter explores the decisions or processes that DACA beneficiaries encounter. Considering how “illegality,” place, and family impact the individual, this chapter demonstrates how different immigration statuses, attitudes, behaviours, and structures disparately, yet unequivocally, continue to frame coming of age processes. Drawing from seven interviews with undocumented Mexican youth benefiting from DACA along the Texas–Mexico border, this chapter introduces the term mixed-status familism. Mixed-status familism provides a nuanced approach to understand the ways in which the mixed-status nature of a family, their attitudes, behaviours, structures, and the place in which they reside continue to frame newly obtained individual opportunities in general and transitions to adulthood like relocating in specific. While most literature points to the benefits that DACA has provided for individuals and a few explore how these have transferred to the family, this chapter captures how family buffers both the impact of an undocumented status and the benefits of a temporary legal protection.

Aguilar, C., & Gonzales, R. G. (2020). Impossible Realities, Deferred Actions, Delegated Dreams and Stories of Resilience. A Better Future: The Role of Higher Education for Displaced and Marginalised People, 388.

The journey to higher education by undocumented students has been one of legal, financial, and informational barriers. Despite ensuring equal access to primary and secondary education (Plyler V. Doe, 1982), federal policies addressing access to postsecondary education are non-existent; a lack of action that has motivated some states to provide additional access and others to erect further barriers. While the implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012 has attenuated the transition to “illegality” that many undocumented young people experienced after high school graduation, access to postsecondary education remains a challenging endeavour for most undocumented youth. The recent announcement to rescind DACA and the lack of a solution for comprehensively managing immigration further obscure the future of this constituency. Placed at the intersection of contrasting political, economic, and social contexts, this chapter explores the experiences of three undocumented immigrant youth in Texas who enter adult transitions at differing levels of educational attainment. This chapter illustrates how policies, school practices and families’ legal structures continue to create conflicting educational experiences of exclusion and belonging for undocumented young people living in the United States.

Andrade, L. M. (2019). “The war still continues”: The importance of positive validation for undocumented community college students after Trump’s presidential victory.” Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 18(3), 273-289.

The study sheds light on current practices that may exacerbate students’ stress or push students to stop out and provides recommendations for educators and administrators to address the needs of undocumented community college students during difficult political times.

Andrade, L. M. (2019). “The War Still Continues,” Part II: The Importance of Positive Validation for Undocumented Students One Year After Trump’s Presidential Victory.” Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 1538192718823186.

The present longitudinal qualitative study investigated seven undocumented students’ socioemotional states and whether administrators and educators provided sustained positive validation in light of Trump’s policies a year later. Findings revealed that students faced similar or heightened, negative emotional states and, although some positive validation occurred, new support services are needed.

Andrade, L. M. (2019). “CAUTION: on the many, unpredictable iterations of a yellow border sign ideograph and migrant/queer world-making.” Text and Performance Quarterly, 39 (3), 203-228.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, artist John Hood collaborated with California’s Department of Transportation to erect yellow “CAUTION” signs to warn drivers against migrants running across the San Diego freeways. This essay marries migrant/queer world-making theories and ideographic analysis to describe how artists imagined new, often contradictory, worlds to resist modernist notions of citizenship, gender, sex, family, and humanity through (re)drawn iterations of the sign. I show an overlapping and reflexive interplay between what the iterations visually represent and the ways that migrants/queers, including my familia, perform what the images mean in the realm of the material, everyday.

Bazo Vienrich, A. (2018). “Undocumented in the Ivory Tower. In Counternarratives from Women of Color Academics” (pp. 130-136). Routledge.

In this book chapter I discuss my experiences navigating academia as an undocumented Latina student, researcher, and instructor. My hope is that this chapter will resonate with graduate students and early career academics who are undocumented, unDACAmented, and those who have other liminal immigration statuses, such as Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Some of the strategies I have implemented throughout my academic journey include taking ownership of immigrant narratives in academic spaces, the role of “coming out” as a source of bravery, and finding meaning in the academic journey itself.

Bazo Vienrich, A. “Indigenous Immigrants from Latin America (IILA): Racial/Ethnic Identity in the U.S.” Sociology Compass. 2019; 13:e12644. https://doi.org/10.1111/soc4.12644

In this paper I explore how indigeneity, race, and ethnicity have been framed in Latin America. I follow this brief overview with a discussion on how Indigenous Immigrants from Latin American position their indigenous identity within their racial/ethnic identity in the U.S. One of the questions I engage with in this paper is, how does immigration shape indigenous identity? I conclude by proposing the use of Social Identity Theory (SIT) to explore how indigenous immigrants from Latin America understand and respond to U.S.-based racial/ethnic identity while maintaining their indigeneity in a U.S. context.

Bazo Vienrich, Alessandra & Creighton, Mathew J. (2018) “What’s left unsaid? In-group solidarity and ethnic and racial differences in opposition to immigration in the United States,” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 44:13, 2240-2255, DOI: 10.1080/1369183X.2017.1334540

In this paper my co-author and I look at opposition to immigration in the U.S. We focus on how public opinion on immigration, and opposition to it, vary based on respondents’ racial/ethnic identity. Additionally we use a list experiment to be able to identify respondents’ explicit and implicit opposition to immigration. We find that Latinxs overtly and covertly oppose immigration at higher rates than Black and White respondents. In contrast, White and Black respondents express less opposition to immigration, but only overtly. When offered complete anonymity, respondents’ opposition to immigration is significantly greater.

Bedolla, E. L., Montiel, G. I., & Chen, A. C. R. (2020). “Undocumented Pre-health Students: Community Initiatives Toward Addressing Pipeline Gaps for Postgraduate and Professional Advancement.” Handbook on Promoting Social Justice in Education, 2185-2201.

This chapter presents demographic data from a nationwide survey of pre-health students and presents learnings from the Peer Mentoring Program, a component of Pre-Health Dreamers, an organization created by undocumented students to support other undocumented students in the pursuit of careers in medicine and health.

Campos Ramales, L. (2019). “A Political Action against the Good Immigrant Narrative.Genealogy, 3, 69.

This brief article draws from research on the undocumented student experience and incorporates personal perspectives about the complexity behind the good immigrant-model, minority narrative on identity formation. From a de-colonial lens, this article aims to emphasize the impact of the DREAM(Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors)-er narrative on the immigrants right’s movement and urges a need to separate the narrative from the movement as a political action to continue to diversify immigration reform advocacy as more inclusive of various immigrant and undocumented sub-communities. Lastly, this article aims to challenge the sociopolitical construct of the undocumented term on identity and introduces the importance of person-centered language to externalize undocumented legal status from the individual to position it as a circumstance rather than an identity.

Castrellón, L. E., Reyna Rivarola, A. R., & López, G. R. (2019). When ICE came to town: Separating families and disrupting educational trajectories. In E. R. Crawford & L. M. Dorner (Eds.), Educational leadership of immigrants: Case studies in times of change (pp. 58-70). New York: Routledge.

The purpose of this case study is twofold. One on hand, it considers how political climate influences the experiences of students, teachers, and administrators. On the other, it challenges school administrators to consider how they would respond to ICE operation in their school communities. To frame the purpose of the case study, the authors provide background on the Jordan River community and discuss the outcome of a mass ICE operation from the perspectives of an undocumented student, teacher, and school administrator. The case study concludes with classroom activities designed for current and future school administrators to consider how they would respond to a mass ICE operation in their own school communities.

Castrellón, L. E., Reyna Rivarola, A. R., & López, G. R. (2017). We are not alternative facts: Feeling, existing, and resisting in the era of Trump. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 30(10), 936-945. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09518398.2017.1312603

In this article the authors argue that Donald Trump is not simply a presidential figure, but the embodiment of white supremacy, capitalism, racism, neoliberalism, patriarchy, xenophobia, Islamaphobia, homophobia, and more. It is our belief that historically marginalized communities are in a state of constant terror as we try to make sense of how to navigate, live, and merely exist in a world where our livelihood is constantly under threat. In this article, we aim to showcase some of the ways in which people in our communities are coping and making sense of Trump’s presidency and his spiteful rhetoric. The authors include personal reflections, and weave in art, poems, and Facebook statuses of Students of Color who are also responding to the current administration. By meshing many perspectives, we seek to understand glimpses of the totality and impact of this president in our daily lives.

Chilin-Hernández, Jessica F. “Undocumented Virginians in the Age of Trump” Virginia Policy Review, Vol. X, Issue II (2017): 20-25

This article discusses tax policies, belonging, and undocumented immigrants (specifically DACA & TPS) in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Cornejo Villavicencio, K. (2020). The Undocumented AmericansPenguin Random House.

Writer Karla Cornejo Villavicencio was on DACA when she decided to write about being undocumented for the first time using her own name. It was right after the election of 2016, the day she realized the story she’d tried to steer clear of was the only one she wanted to tell.  So she wrote her immigration lawyer’s phone number on her hand in Sharpie and embarked on a trip across the country to tell the stories of her fellow undocumented immigrants—and to find the hidden key to her own.

Diaz-Strong, D., & Meiners, E. (2007). “Residents, alien policies, and resistances: Experiences of undocumented Latina/o students in Chicago’s colleges and universities.” Interactions: UCLA Journal and Information Studies, 3(2).

The article focuses on the barriers undocumented immigrants face in accessing higher education and the psychological distress of navigating higher education aspirations within restrictive immigration contexts. By highlighting the barriers encountered by undocumented youth, we urge educators to view immigration policy as education policy.

Diaz-Strong, D. X. (2020). “Estaba bien chiquito” (I was very young): The transition to adulthood and “illegality” of the Mexican and Central American 1.25 generation.” Journal of Adolescent Research.

This article examines the challenges legal exclusion, or “illegality,” creates as the Mexican and Central American 1.25 generation—those who immigrate between the ages of 13 to 17—launches into adulthood. This article contributes to a more complete picture of the challenges childhood arrivals experience at a critical point of transition in the life course. It also brings attention to the timing of immigration—the life-stage when a minor immigrates—as an important source of differentiation.

Diaz-Strong, D., Gómez, C., Luna-Duarte, M. E., & Meiners, E. R. (2011). “Purged: Undocumented students, financial aid policies, and access to higher education.” Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 10(2), 107–119.

This article examines how the denial of financial aid constrains undocumented students from pursuing higher education and discusses the interlocking relationship between federal immigration and higher education policies. Reporting on research data identifying that undocumented students pay for their education through work, family contributions, few scholarships, and strategies such as working more and taking fewer classes, this article also links the stress placed on undocumented students and their families to Latino retention and graduation rates.

Lal, P. (2019). Unsung America: Immigrant Trailblazers and Our Fight for Freedom. Mango Press.

Far too often, immigrants are demonized and scapegoated, when they should be celebrated as heroes and revolutionaries. This book strings together both triumphant and painful tales of immigrants who blazed trails and broke barriers in the fight for fundamental human rights. These are ordinary people who have used their own stories on the fight for citizenship to illustrate their triumphs and trials as immigrants in a new land. Each uses a different strategy and tactics; what works for one does not work for another. They all have one thing in common, however―a desire for racial and social justice.

Read more: http://prernalal.com/unsungamerica/#ixzz6bA4VfkmG

Montiel, G. I. (2017). “Hacerle la Lucha”: Examining the Value of Hard Work as a Source of Funds of Knowledge of Undocumented, Mexican Ivy League Students.” In Funds of Knowledge in Higher Education (pp. 125-142). Routledge.

This qualitative study presents an examination of how undocumented the concept of “Hacerle la lucha” emerges as Funds of Knowledge for undocumented Mexican students attending Ivy League Schools and how such funds of knowledge are converted into other types of capital.

Montiel, G.I. (2020) “Contexts that Facilitate Academic Success and College Pathways for Undocumented Students: Lessons from Early Academic Experiences of High-Achieving, Undocumented Latino Students Attending Highly-Selective Private Colleges.” In Paik, S. J. High-Achieving Latino Students: Successful Pathways Toward College & Beyond. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing Inc.

This chapter examines the pre-college factors that support the academic success of undocumented Latino students and position them to enter highly-selective private colleges and universities.

Ramirez, N. & Monk, G. (2017). Crossing Borders: Narrative Therapy With Undocumented Mexican Women on a Journey Beyond Abuse and Violence. Journal of Systemic Therapies. 36. 27-38. 10.1521/jsyt.2017.36.2.27.

Many undocumented Mexican women in the United States are harmed by sexual and physical violence and limited opportunities. Often living in fear of deportation and without recourse to a legal system that would ensure their safety, they are further isolated, paralyzed, and feel they have no safe place to turn. This article describes the application of narrative therapy to address the mental health needs of undocumented Mexican women subjected to domestic violence. Identifying implicit themes in crossing narratives that relate to identity and relationships before and after a domestic violence experience are explored. This exploration in therapy creates a context for undocumented Mexican women to notice resiliency in their experiences and develop their preferred life narratives.

Reyna Rivarola, A. R. (2017). “Undocumented” ways of navigating complex sociopolitical realities in higher education: A critical race counterstory. Journal of Critical Scholarship on Higher Education and Student Affairs, 3(1), 101-125. Retrieved from http://ecommons.luc.edu/jcshesa/vol3/iss1/6

In the United States, undocumented students must navigate complex sociopolitical realities to access and succeed in higher education. These complex sociopolitical realities are shaped by federal policies on education and immigration, state-specific legislation on education and public policy, as well as general attitudes regarding race, immigration, and nationalism in the U.S. In this manuscript, I weave in counter-storytelling to document some of the ways one undocumented student accessed and navigated U.S. higher education. I begin by reviewing the national and state policy contexts that affect undocumented students in the U.S. I focus a state policy analysis in Utah, as one example of how national and state policies interact and sometimes contradict one another to impact the ways in which undocumented students navigate higher education. Second, I analyze the existing literature on the barriers undocumented students face in higher education, as well as the emerging literature on undocumented student support services in higher education. Third, I present current higher education programs in U.S. colleges and universities that consider sociopolitical contexts and respond to the particular needs of undocumented students. Finally, I draw implications for improved practice in undocumented student services in higher education.

Russell, F. and Reyna Rivarola, A. R. (2023). “What does it mean to be UndocuBlack? Exploring the double invisibility of Black undocumented immigrant students in U.S. colleges and universities,” New Directions for Higher Education.

The scholarship concerning undocumented immigrant students continues to overlook the lives of Black undocumented immigrant (undocuBlack) students. This interpretative phenomenological study aims to increase awareness of how undocuBlack students experience college. Our findings suggest that undocuBlack students experience double invisibility because of two of their salient identities: Black and undocumented. Study participants overwhelmingly indicated feeling invisible, even in spaces presumably designed for Black and undocumented immigrant students, such as Black Student Unions and Undocumented Student Resource Centers. This article provides a grounding understanding of undocuBlack college students and concludes with recommendations for increasing the undocuBlack college student visibility in higher education and research.

Vargas, J. A. (2019). Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen. Harper Collins.

This is not a book about the politics of immigration. This book––at its core––is not about immigration at all. This book is about homelessness, not in a traditional sense, but in the unsettled, unmoored psychological state that undocumented immigrants like myself find ourselves in. This book is about lying and being forced to lie to get by; about passing as an American and as a contributing citizen; about families, keeping them together, and having to make new ones when you can’t. This book is about constantly hiding from the government and, in the process, hiding from ourselves. This book is about what it means to not have a home. After 25 years of living illegally in a country that does not consider me one of its own, this book is the closest thing I have to freedom.

Wong, T. K. (2015). Rights, Deportation, and Detention in the Age of Immigration Control. Stanford University Press.

Immigration is among the most prominent, enduring, and contentious features of our globalized world. Yet, there is little systematic, cross-national research on why countries “do what they do” when it comes to their immigration policies. Rights, Deportation, and Detention in the Age of Immigration Control addresses this gap by examining what are arguably the most contested and dynamic immigration policies—immigration control—across 25 immigrant-receiving countries, including the U.S. and most of the European Union. The book addresses head on three of the most salient aspects of immigration control: the denial of rights to non-citizens, their physical removal and exclusion from the polity through deportation, and their deprivation of liberty and freedom of movement in immigration detention.

Wong, T. K. & Valdivia, C. (2014). In Their Own Words: A Nationwide Survey of Undocumented MillennialsCenter for Comparative Immigration Studies.

In Their Own Words: A National Survey of Undocumented Millennials is one of the largest surveys to date on any segment of the undocumented population in the U.S. The survey provides new insights related to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, life after DACA, and the experience of “coming out” as undocumented, as well as a first-of-its-kind look at the civic engagement and political incorporation of undocumented youth, among several other important topics.

Wong, T. K., Kang, S., Valdivia, C., Espino, J., Gonzalez, M., Peralta, E. (2020). How Interior Immigration Enforcement Affects Trust in Law Enforcement. Perspectives on Politics.

The day-to-day behaviors of undocumented immigrants are significantly affected when local law enforcement officials do the work of federal immigration enforcement. One such behavior, which has been widely discussed in debates over so-called sanctuary policies, is that undocumented immigrants are less likely to report crimes to the police when local law enforcement officials work with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on federal immigration enforcement. However, the mechanism that explains this relationship of decreased trust in law enforcement has not yet been systematically tested. Do undocumented immigrants become less trusting of police officers and sheriffs when local law enforcement officials work with ICE on federal immigration enforcement? To answer this, we embedded an experiment that varied the interior immigration enforcement context in a survey (n = 512) drawn from a probability-based sample of undocumented immigrants. When local law enforcement officials work with ICE on federal immigration enforcement, respondents are statistically significantly less likely to say that they trust that police officers and sheriffs will keep them, their families, and their communities safe; will protect the confidentiality of witnesses to crimes even if they are undocumented; will protect the rights of all people equally, including undocumented immigrants; and will protect undocumented immigrants from abuse or discrimination.

My Undocumented Life provides up-to-date information and resources for undocumented students, their families, and allies.

UndocuPhDs started as a collective cohort of undocumented PhD students at Claremont Graduate University (CGU). Its work continues through social media outreach and resource-sharing, in-person workshops and through CGU’s Allies of Dreamers Certificate Program, where the founders now instructors. 


Don’t miss out on the latest resources available for undocumented students, make sure to “like” our page on Facebook. Please consider donating to our platform so we can provide more information and resources to help undocumented students and their families. Any amount helps!

logo3ver2At My Undocumented Life we provide up-to-date information and resources for undocumented immigrants and allies. We post scholarship opportunities that are open to undocumented students, strategies for navigating the educational system, information on how to apply for DACA/Advance Parole, news on DAPA, and much more. Most importantly, we want to provide a sense of community to our diverse group of readers. Learn more about our work here: “About Us

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Categories: Research, UndocuGrads: Stories of former and current undocumented grad students, UndocuScholarship

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