The legal status divide among the children of immigrants

Roberto G. Gonzales, Stephen P. Ruszczyk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Over the past thirty-five years, federal immigration policy has brightened the boundaries of the category of undocumented status. For undocumented young people who move into adulthood, the predominance of immigration status to their everyday experiences and social position has been amplified. This process of trying to continue schooling, find work, and participate in public life has become synonymous with a process of learning to be “illegal.” This essay argues that despite known variations in undocumented youths by race, place, and educational history, undocumented status has become what Everett Hughes called a “master status.” The uniform set of immigration status–based exclusions overwhelms the impact of other statuses to create a socially significant divide. The rise, fall, and survival of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a policy offering qualified youths a temporary semilegal status, have underlined how closely access and rights hew to the contours of contemporary immigration policy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-149
Number of pages15
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 4 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • History and Philosophy of Science

Cite this