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Title:Undocuactivism: Latina/o undocuactivists fighting for change in the U.S.
Author(s):Perez, Joanna Beatriz
Director of Research:Zerai, Assata
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Zerai, Assata
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Marshall, Anna-Maria; Dowling, Julie; Inda, Jonathan; Gonzales, Roberto
Department / Program:Sociology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):undocumented immigrants
Abstract:Given the increasing anti-immigrant rhetoric, sentiment, and policy advocacy, it is important to understand the development, maintenance, and power of undocuactivism, which is the mobilization of undocumented immigrants. Through in-depth interviews, physical and virtual fieldwork, archival online research, analysis of social media and protest art, as well as the use of history, critical theory, law, and interdisciplinary literature, this qualitative study examines the experiences and agency of Latina/o undocuactivists. In this study, undocuactivists are defined as undocumented immigrant young adult activists who are no longer remaining in the shadows due to their lack of legal status in the U.S. and are fighting for the rights of all immigrants. The guiding research question is, "How do Latina/o undocuactivists understand and contest illegality?" Using an intersectional methodological and theoretical approach, I investigate the way that illegality shapes the identity and activism trajectory of Latina/o undocuactivists. My findings reveal that Latina/o undocuactivists contest and resist illegality, which reflects a significant critique of the legal system and its power to construct oppressive social relations. At the same time, I find that Latina/o undocuactivists also see changes to the law as a means to expand their opportunities to claim citizenship, thus articulating a more aspirational role for the power of law. These counter-intuitive findings highlight the complexity of the legal system, intersectional identities, and community organizing. Additionally, my study highlights how and why the movement goals of Latina/o undocuactivist extend beyond the fight for the DREAM Act, a federal legislation that if passed, would allow eligible undocumented immigrants who pursue a higher education and/or enlist in the military access to a pathway to legalization. Based on their evolving movement goals, Latina/o undocuactivists are dismantling the narrative of the "good" versus "bad" immigrant while engaging in political lobbying, protest, and civil disobedience. In spite of facing serious risks of arrest and deportation while engaging in the aforementioned mobilizing efforts, I find that Latina/o undocuactivists are shifting the immigrant rights movement and witnessing the power of mobilizing to create social change. Indeed, understanding the experiences of Latina/o undocuactivists reveals key pathways by which historically castigated and stigmatized social groups are capable of using the legal system to rectify and potentially reverse their prescribed positions in society. While much theoretical and empirical work has been devoted to the civil rights efforts of African Americans in the Jim Crow era, Latina/o undocuactivists force a new framework for studying social movements in a so-called "post-racial" America. Therefore, this study will contribute to Latina/o sociology, immigration, education, socio-legal studies, and social movements.
Issue Date:2016-07-15
Rights Information:Copyright 2016 Joanna B. Perez
Date Available in IDEALS:2016-11-10
Date Deposited:2016-08

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