Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Ester R. Shapiro

Second Advisor

Laurel Wainwright

Third Advisor

Raul Ybarra


This study aims to document the lived experiences of Latino youth as they navigate environments that are impacted by anti-immigrant sentiment and increased documentation enforcement. The current literature, while limited, suggests that anti-immigrant sentiment and increased enforcement compound other stressors experienced by Latino immigrants to negatively impact the mental health of children, youth and adults (APA, 2012; Suarez-Orozco et al., 2011; Yoshikawa, 2011). However, the literature has not systematically explored the experiences of children and youth who are affected personally or vicariously through impacts on their community. When studies do focus on the contextual and psychological factors, they do not address the ways in which Latino youth confront discrimination by creating alternative spaces in order to foster resilience and empowerment. Increasingly, developmental literatures and those focused on physical and mental health impacts of social discrimination use ecological models to address the interweaving of social experiences as these impact both private, psychological dimensions, and external, realistic dimensions of lived experiences.

To address the gap in the literature, this study applied an ecological approach to Latino immigrant youth experiences of stressors associated with documentation status, applying these frameworks first to review relevant interdisciplinary literatures in ways that explore social factors and psychological impacts, and then to guide areas of inquiry exploring youth experiences. The study used focus group methods, conducting two groups with 14 Latino college students, to explore how immigrant youth experience intensified documentation enforcement and anti-immigrant sentiment, the risk factors they grapple with on a daily basis as they navigate their social environments, as well as the protective factors that encourage healthy development and resilience. All participants were born in the US (n = 10) or currently documented (n = 4). All participants reported different levels of exposure to risk of deportation, starting with immediate and extended family. However, all were very aware of the range of restrictions and penalties imposed on their undocumented community. Participants also shared feeling excluded from the mainstream Euro-American social environment because of acts of discrimination and microaggressions. Finally, participants also identified ways in which they respond to the exclusion by developing strategies of resistance.


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