Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Ester Shapiro

Second Advisor

Laurel Wainwright

Third Advisor

Lizabeth Roemer


The United States has a long, complex and contradictory history in its use of governmental policies to control immigration, especially in its policies regarding nonwhite workers subjected to anti-immigrant policies and ideologies promoting their isolation and marginalization from the broader society (Portes & Rumbaut, 2006). With changing demographics of immigration, including the increase of undocumented women workers and growth of mixed status families, it is important for psychologists to study the impact of anti-immigrant climate on mental health outcomes and resources promoting wellness under adversity. Recent research has suggested that immigrant families, regardless of their status, already underutilize mainstream resources. Currently, with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the passing of the USA PATRIOT act, fears of terrorism are being used to justify the persecution of undocumented immigrants, focusing their efforts on the Latino community (Piwowarczyk, 2007; Capps, Castaneda, Chaudry & Santos, 2007; Adler, 2006). This study applies a sociopolitically and culturally informed ecosystemic model (Prilleltensky and Prilleltensky, 2003, 2006; Shapiro, 2005) to explore the impact of the intensification of anti-immigrant climate on the lived experience of Latino immigrant mothers, and how they are using cultural and mainstream resources to ensure their own well being and that of their families.

The study used a qualitative interview approach and thematic analysis (Braune and Clark, 2006) to interview immigrant women, exploring their lived experiences of hardship due to anti-immigrant sentiment, impact on the way they navigate private and public spaces, and how they mobilize personal and relational resources and identify environmental resources protecting and promoting wellness. With this method, this study identified four major themes in the lives of immigrant mothers: 1) the context of increased vulnerability in which these mothers navigate, and the significant emotional burdens they carry as a result of these circumstances; 2) the impact of this context on participants' sense of self as mothers; 3) their adaptive responses to increased vulnerability through their altered sense of self as mothers as it affects how they gather inner strengths and goals/sense of purpose in their pursuit of personal and family wellness; and 4) how these participants mobilize personal and social resources to evaluate and navigate social spaces and use strategies for survival, safety, and wellness. These conclusions highlight the impact anti-immigrant sentiment has on these mothers' abilities to navigate resources in their community, while revealing the culturally meaningful resources they turn to, and creatively generate, in order to protect safety and ensure wellness for themselves, their children, and their families.


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