Latino children of immigrants : identity formation at the intersection of residency status
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This qualitative study addresses the interrelation of residency status, ethnic identity formation and schooling among young children of immigrants from Mexico and Central America in mixed legal status families in Central Texas. Through critical case studies, the researcher worked with Latino children of immigrants and undocumented immigrant mothers. The dissertation examines the following question: What is the interconnection between immigration experiences, residency status, and ethnic identity for children in mixed status families from Mexico and Central America? Informed by identity formation theories, Critical Race Theory, LatCrit theory and Chicana Feminist epistemology, this study shows how undocumented immigrant mothers support the development of an ethnic identity development in their children. A reason to work towards understanding identity formation among children of Latino ancestry is to open a space where their unique experiences are valued just as much as those of mainstream students. Latinos in the United States are not a homogenous group; we have diverse social, cultural, racial, and linguistic backgrounds. Schools and communities have inadvertently overlooked Latino children of immigrants by classifying them with the 1.5 and 2nd generation Mexican American students, but this classification does not acknowledge their unique needs and their particular familial experiences. This study also brings to light the experiences of undocumented immigrant mothers as important to the analysis of the phenomenon of immigration itself. This project is relevant to the growing field of immigration studies, education, educational administration, and anthropology of education, among other fields because it concentrated on young children ages 7-10, what the researcher considered an under researched population. The intention of this research is to disrupt monovocal, discriminatory discourses about Latino immigrants. Preliminary findings suggest the need to reframe Latino children of immigrants as individuals with rich, complex lives composed of different elements such as legal status, English/Spanish languages, immigration experiences/traumas, cultural traditions, and family composition. We need to work at the intersections of these different dimensions of identity and experience as well as to consider how each aspect is relevant for the education of children of immigrants of Latino descent.