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“Myths of the American Dream: Access to Higher Education for Citizen Children of Undocumented Latino Immigrants”

Author: Melannie Agaton

Department: UIC Institute for Policy & Civic Engagement

Advisor: Dr. Ivón Padilla-Rodríguez

Abstract: This project examines how access to higher education is impeded for children of undocumented immigrants due to their parent’s status, further evaluating how U.S citizens within mixed-status families are subjected to second class citizenship. More specifically, it addresses the experiences and needs of university students within mixed-status families to better inform policy changes that reduce barriers to accessing higher education. Qualitative research was conducted through interviews with several university students from mixed-status families in the Chicagoland area. Results of the study indicated that having undocumented parents resulted in various hardships, with financial struggles often posing as the most prominent barrier to higher education. Moreover, financial struggles were exacerbated by federal and state financial aid systems that proved to be inadequate due to inaccurate depictions of finances and systemic errors preventing undocumented parents from completing applications. This project expands upon the widening effects of the current immigration system and provides insight into all of those impacted, irrespective of legal status. In turn, the implications of this project are prompting policymakers to consider the wide-reaching effects of immigration policies to pass laws that account for these experiences. It also provides state officials and university administrators with insight into the needs of their students. Furthermore, this research concludes that there is a need for a reformed state financial aid system that provides additional financial aid resources to mixed-status families and provides a more accurate and thorough consideration of their experiences to create equitable access to higher education.

Keywords: Mixed-Status Families, Financial Aid, Access to Higher Education, Multi-generational punishment