Beyond Dreamers: The Under-analyzed Complexity of the Undocumented Youth Population

October 9, 2019

Sofya Aptekar (University of Massachusetts Boston) and Amy Hsin (Queens College, CUNY) are working together on a research project that examines the complexity of the lives of undocumented youth in New York City. Aptekar and Hsin are visiting scholars at the Russell Sage Foundation for the 2019-2020 academic year. 

Hsin and Aptekar’s joint project incorporates administrative data on undocumented college students in New York City collected by the City University of New York and in-depth interviews of over 100 undocumented youth and their families. The researchers attempt to redress an issue of imbalance in contemporary immigration research, which has tended to focus on the experiences of undocumented Latinx youth as well as on those who choose to disclose their immigration status. Their Project on Immigration and Higher Education distinguishes itself by including a sample of students who are diverse by race and country of origin as well as those who do not identify as activists and are unlikely to disclose their immigration status. Their study makes an important distinction between those who lack immigration status because they overstayed their visas and those who entered the country without inspection by crossing the border or using fraudulent papers, illustrating the ways that different countries of origin can impact the likelihood of gaining asylum or shape the path to undocumented status as well as noting that different modes of entry to the United States can lead to different options for adjustment of immigration status. 

The researchers presented preliminary findings from their research at a recent event in the Immigration Seminar Series at the CUNY Graduate Center. Among the next steps for the project include: exploring intra-family dynamics, especially relationships with parents, siblings, and romantic partners, investigating how participants navigate employment with and without DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), examining the politics of identity, social movements, and the intersection of race and undocumented status, and, with co-principal investigator Holly Reed (Queens College, CUNY), analyzing participants’ experiences as CUNY students and with campus leadership, outreach, and resources. During their year at the Russell Sage Foundation, Aptekar and Hsin will analyze data, conduct follow up interviews with a subset of respondents, and begin writing a co-authored book manuscript.

Aptekar is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Core Faculty in the Critical Ethnic and Community Studies Program at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She earned her PhD in sociology at Princeton University. Her areas of expertise include migration, urban sociology, race and ethnicity, sociology of culture, workforce inequities, citizenship, collaborative consumption. In addition to this project on undocumented youth, Aptekar is also studying immigrants serving in the US military and conducting workforce disparity studies in various municipalities.

Hsin is Asssociate Professor in the Department of Sociology at Queens College, City University of New York. She earned her PhD in sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her research is at the intersection of education, immigration and inequality. Hsin is particularly interested in the effect of policing practices on undocumented youth and the causes and consequences of Asian American academic achievement.



RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of original empirical research articles by both established and emerging scholars.


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