"Undocumented and unafraid" : an investigation into the political identities of college students in Texas

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Sikes, Chloe Elizabeth

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In 2001, Texas became the first state to pass legislation that permitted undocumented high school students to qualify as state residents for the purposes of in-state tuition eligibility at Texas public colleges and universities (Rincón, 2008). Passed through House Bill 1403, in-state tuition made higher education more accessible than it had been prior to the legislation. This legislation, as well as successful efforts to protect it over the years, was due in no small part to the advocacy of undocumented college students and alumni themselves (Rincón, 2008; Nicholls, 2013). These efforts do not solely revolve around the issue of in-state tuition; they can be contextualized through a long history of Chicana/o social movements, community and youth organizing, and broader immigrant rights struggles (Berta-Ávila, Tijerina Revilla & Figueroa, 2011; Seif, 2004). These histories highlight how education has traditionally been a nexus for tensions surrounding citizenship, civic participation, and access to societal resources and recognition (Pérez, Espinoza, Ramos, Coronado, & Cortes, 2010). Despite the well-established relationship between citizenship, education, and immigrant students’ movements (Gonzales, 2008; Negrón-Gonzales, 2009, 2014; Berta-Ávila, Tijerina Revilla & Figueroa, 2011; Abrego, 2008), little research has been conducted that 1) incorporates students’ voices directly in substantial ways, and 2) focuses on the Texas context. To address this gap in literature and knowledge, I pose the primary question: how do undocumented advocates in Texas conceptualize their political identities? This study attempts to uphold the narratives of identity construction from advocates’ own perspectives and contribute to the knowledge of the undocumented student movement in substantial ways. Implications involve suggestions for educators across grade levels and higher education, policymakers, and advocacy groups.


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