First Advisor

Margaret Everett

Term of Graduation

Fall 2014

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Sociology






Undocumented immigrant children -- Education (Higher) -- United States, Children of undocumented immigrants -- Education (Higher) -- United States, Immigrants -- United States -- Attitudes, Hispanic American students -- Education (Higher) -- United States -- Attitudes



Physical Description

1 online resource (x, 125 pages)


The issue of undocumented immigration has recently taken center-stage in the media and national politics in the United States. A large population of undocumented youth grows up with legal access to public education through high school, following the Supreme Court decision of Plyler vs. Doe, but faces legal and economic barriers to post-secondary education. Following high school, undocumented Hispanic/Latino youth legal protections end, greatly limiting chances for upward mobility through traditional post-secondary education pipelines. In some cases, knowledge of future barriers to post-secondary education leads to a decline in educational motivation.

The current political atmosphere makes this study a bit of a moving target as the Obama administration recently passed a reprieve. This reprieve, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Process (DACA) does not confer any legal status or open any future path to citizenship. It does, however, grant eligible applicants a work permit, and the opportunity to travel, work, and attend school with a sense of security.

The purpose of this thesis is to better understand the perceptions and understandings of undocumented Hispanic/Latino youth and their pursuits of higher education in. It is primarily concerned with the educational issues and opportunities facing these students. This research explores the impact of Hispanic/Latino students' perceptions of legal status barriers on their educational attainment experiences. The different opportunities and obstacles present in access to post-secondary education for undocumented Hispanic/Latino students residing in the United States are examined. This study focuses on the time period just after high school graduation, a critical stage in these students' lives, when undocumented status is particularly consequential.

Knowledge about students' perception of their educational progress sheds light on their educational attainment experiences; it illuminates important factors associated with their individual educational experiences. Interactions with teachers, school authorities, their parents, siblings, peers, and other authority figures could be described in connecting personal interpretations and emotional responses to specific events in their lives that they feel helped or hindered their educational progress. Knowing how undocumented Hispanic/Latino youth identify and understand the factors that facilitate or impede their navigation of post-secondary education, will further inform educators and researchers alike.

This study offers the possibility of identifying additional factors for educators, researchers, and our communities that hinder or facilitate the educational navigation and success of undocumented students. This type of research is significant as this marginalized population lives and works within the American society; the successes and struggles of these students impacts the United States as a whole. Moreover, these students possess amazing potential; we need to better understand and serve this population in order to both improve their life experiences, and to benefit from their input and abilities.


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