Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

College-educated undocumented young adults face same narrow range of jobs as their parents

26.07.2011
Parents who move to the United States without legal status generally seek better opportunities for their young children. Their kids grow up Americanized: speaking English, attending public school, going to the prom and dreaming about what they want to do when they grow up.

Many assume these youths will achieve more than their parents. But a survey of life trajectories of undocumented young adults raised and educated in America shows that they end up with the same labor jobs as their parents, working in construction, restaurants, cleaning and childcare services.

The results appear in the August issue of American Sociological Review.

"This is a population of young people who, because of their legal integration through the school system, learned to work hard and pursue the American dream," said Roberto G. Gonzales, author of the survey and an assistant professor at the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration. "Many of them grew up believing that being able to speak English and having an education should be able to get them more than their parents."

Gonzales did the study while he was an assistant professor at the University of Washington's School of Social Work. He conducted life history interviews with 150 mostly Mexican-origin undocumented young adults – about equal numbers of men and women – who had been brought to the U.S. before age 12. The respondents lived in the Los Angeles metropolitan area and were 20 to 34 years old.

His findings could illuminate how current immigration laws don't adequately accommodate the ever-increasing number – now at 2.1 million – of children and young adults who are brought to the U.S. as children and left to figure out how to navigate their adult lives without legal status.

"Through the U.S. public school system, undocumented children are integrated into the legal framework of this country," Gonzales said. "But as they reach adulthood, they are cut off from the means through which to live the lives for which school prepared them."

Gonzales, a sociologist, wanted to learn how undocumented youths learn of their immigration status and how they come to cope with its effects on their identity, friendships, career aspirations and daily lives.

Most of the people surveyed told Gonzales that they first felt the effects of their non-legal status between the ages of 16-18, usually when they sought part-time jobs, driver's licenses or admission to college, which require a social security number.

Many respondents told Gonzales that they felt confused, angry, frustrated, scared and stigmatized when they learned of their immigration status. Their social habits changed out of fear of who to trust. Career plans halted. Arrest and deportation became constant threats for many, Gonzales said.

Returning to their native country was not a viable option for most of the respondents, because they lacked important social and professional connections, job options, Spanish fluency and familiarity with the culture and customs of their birth country.

Miguel, one of the respondents, had intended to go to college and then law school. When his mother told him in high school that he wasn't legal, he said: "I didn't know what to do. I couldn't see my future anymore."

Cory, age 22, blamed her parents for not telling her sooner about her non-legal status. "I feel like a kid, I can't do anything adults do," she said. Most respondents expressed similar sentiments of developmental limbo.

Seventy-seven of the respondents decided to go to college as a way to stay legally protected by the school system and to try to improve their career options. Relationships with teachers, friends and family were key to whether the respondents attended college, Gonzales found.

But college experience didn't help the respondents broaden their job options. Once they left school, they faced the same narrow range of jobs as their parents and high school peers who did not go to college. None of the 22 respondents who had graduated from four-year universities, or the nine who held graduate degrees, was able to legally pursue their chosen careers.

By their late 20s, respondents reported coming to grips with their illegal status, focusing on what they could do rather than what they couldn't.

Gabriel, a 28-year-old who attended some community college classes, told Gonzales that he sees work as just one piece of his life and that he gets more satisfaction out of his relationship with his girlfriend and being in a dance circle. "I just get sick of being controlled by the lack of nine digits," he said.

"His aspirations flattened, he accepted his fate," Gonzales said of Gabriel. "Is that why we educate our youngsters? Is that the future we want for them?"

Gonzales said that educators and policymakers have important roles to play in helping undocumented youth transition into adulthood. "The problems facing undocumented children and young adults underscore the need for a more diverse approach to immigration policy," he said.

The study was funded by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

For more information, contact Gonzales at 773-834-1763 or rggonzales@uchicago.edu.

Molly McElroy | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uw.edu

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Amazingly flexible: Learning to read in your thirties profoundly transforms the brain
26.05.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Kognitions- und Neurowissenschaften

nachricht Fixating on faces
26.01.2017 | California Institute of Technology

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

Im Focus: New nanomaterial can extract hydrogen fuel from seawater

Hybrid material converts more sunlight and can weather seawater's harsh conditions

It's possible to produce hydrogen to power fuel cells by extracting the gas from seawater, but the electricity required to do it makes the process costly. UCF...

Im Focus: Small collisions make big impact on Mercury's thin atmosphere

Mercury, our smallest planetary neighbor, has very little to call an atmosphere, but it does have a strange weather pattern: morning micro-meteor showers.

Recent modeling along with previously published results from NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft -- short for Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Taking screening methods to the next level

17.10.2017 | Life Sciences

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

‘Find the Lady’ in the quantum world

17.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>