Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Judith Aiken


Undocumented, unafraid, and unapologetic is how our students should be able to communicate to us; yet this is not the reality for many. There are an estimated 65,000 undocumented students who graduate from high schools every year in the United States, and another 7,000 to 13,000 enrolled in colleges and universities. As of September 2017, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has granted about 800,000 individuals deferment from deportation. DREAMers are those brought to this country, are out of status, and likely also qualify for the DREAM Act if it were passed. Many undocumented students in general are prone to experiencing stress that exists as a result of their immigration status. Fear and concerns about physical safety cause many students to keep their status a secret from peers, school personnel, and even close friends. Their fears are rooted in a system that separates families, imprisons migrants without due process, and incites violence against those who are undocumented or are perceived to be, in this country. Thus, navigating life in the shadows for them is understandable; but doing so also comes with real consequences, negatively impacting them academically, socially, and psychologically.

The purpose of this study is to seek to understand the experiences of Latinx undocumented college students in the current political climate and under the current administration in terms of how their student experiences and overall wellness as Latinx undocumented students are being impacted. The study was guided by several questions: a) How do Latinx undocumented students talk about their experiences on the college campus? b) How do Latinx undocumented students perceive how the institution responds to issues they face due to their undocumented status? c) What incidents in particular have most impacted them as college students? And, d) How do students describe their own sense of efficacy and self-care as they navigate college within this current climate?

Through the lens of Latino/a Critical Race Theory and semi-structured interviews with college students in New England and California, coupled with reflections from field experiences, analysis of multiple forms of data, and the researcher’s personal connections to immigration via family history—findings of this study illuminate the lived experiences, challenges, and trauma faced by these students within the ongoing political divisiveness around matters of immigration.

It is important that we as higher education and student affairs personnel understand the lived experiences of these students so that we can more compassionately and competently serve the community while also enabling their success and wellness. It is intended that the findings from this study will illuminate the experiences of undocumented students and provide new ways to support and guide these students.



Number of Pages

196 p.